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

Related articles and links


Double Trouble!




Choosing the right tandem fork

A voice of experience
For those who don’t know us, here at Rodriguez Bicycles we have been building tandems in the United States for over 40 years now. That makes us one of the oldest, if not the oldest tandem manufacturer still building tandems in the US.

All forked Up!
(Scary story of using the wrong fork in a tandem)
My first person experience with a road bike fork installed into a tandem dates back to 1995. It happened to be a carbon fork in this story, but my advice would’ve been the same if the fork were light steel or aluminum. Carbon forks were not nearly as good back then, and I would even say that they were unpredictable.

One of our bike representatives (we’ll call him Jim) was visiting the shop, and wanted to show me his new racing tandem. He worked for a very large company (we’ll call them Company X) that from time to time built tandems when the market was booming, and this was one of those times. When he showed me his tandem, he pointed out that he had installed a new carbon fork “like the ones that they ride in the Paris Roubaix”. I told him, “That is not a tandem fork.” He said, “Well, they ride them in the Paris Roubaix on cobblestone roads.” I said, “I don’t care, that fork will break in that tandem.” He replied, “The engineers at Company X said it will be strong enough.” I said, “From my experience, I think you’re NUTS if you race that tandem with that fork!” Jim decided to listen to the Company X engineers instead of me.

It was only a month or so later when Jim stopped by for his routine visit. It was kind of hard to talk with him as his jaw was wired shut. It was actually just as hard to recognize him as it looked like someone had taken a baseball bat to his entire face and head. As it turned out, the fork broke. Apparently a large part of the fork wound up entering Jim’s face underneath his chin, and exiting through his cheek (Ow! That’s gotta hurt!). I didn’t spend a long time with Jim at this visit as he was obviously uncomfortable, and I suppose embarrassed. Needless to say, he didn’t put another under-weight fork in his tandem though.

While it was really tempting to say “I told you so”, I felt so bad looking at Jim that I steered clear of that infamous saying. I did learn a valuable lesson about my instincts though, and I’ve never felt bad about telling someone that they are putting themselves in danger when they use under-weight critical parts on a bike or tandem.


Article overview:
We love our tandem customers. We love them so much that we want them to stay healthy and live a long time. The tandem industry has had a couple of boom years as of late, and so it goes that lots of newer companies have jumped in to try and take advantage while the gettin’ is good (history repeats itself). Some of these companies already build bicycles and are just now adding tandems to their line-up. Others are simply brand new companies that appeared in the last decade or so. These companies will be in the tandem world for a while, and then a lot of them will exit when sales slow back down in a few years.

Why would I write this article?
When a rider gets hurt (or worse) on a tandem, it hurts the whole tandem industry. I don’t want anybody to get hurt on their tandem whether they ride one of our bikes or not. I feel that our extensive record in the tandem world can help to steer us away from past mistakes (pun intended). A tandem is a completely different animal than a single bike (or half bike as I often refer to them). When it comes to underestimating the stresses on tandem components, there are several mistakes that some tandem riders and even some in the industry have made through the years. I’m hoping that an article like this one can help everyone to avoid making those same mistakes. Although we welcome every manufacturer to the fray, even if it’s just for a short while, we want to keep things safe and fun for those unique folks who enjoy riding tandems.

OK. With that in mind, let’s narrow our focus a bit for this article. The flagship of most tandem lines (including ours) is the uber-light tandem, right? (Even though most of them are ‘fudging’ their published weights).

A Fork in the Road
In this article, I will focus on one aspect of building a super light weight tandem….the light weight tandem fork. If you’ve been in this industry for as long as we have, you’ve learned that a fork has to be specifically designed for use on a tandem (some have learned the hard way). So, if you’re into high performance, uber-light tandems, or want to learn about the engineering challenges of building a tandem specific fork, this article is for you.

Building a super-light tandem takes a lot of heavy thinking
At Rodriguez, we’re certainly no stranger to building uber-light tandems. As a matter of fact, we’ve built probably some of the lightest verified tandems in the industry. Funny thing about tandems though, even if they are super-light, is that they are supposed to be built using components suitable for tandem riding. This is especially true for the fork. For instance, if a manufacturer specifically states that their forks are NOT recommended for a tandem, then it stands to reason that the fork shouldn’t go onto a tandem….right?

If you poke around on the websites of companies that have specialized in tandems for 20 years or more (including ours), you’ll find that they all recommend using a tandem worthy fork on a tandem.

About our Carbon Footprint:
In our shop, we use a lot of carbon forks. We have nothing against them, and we use them all the time on race and sport bikes. We probably sell as many single bikes with carbon forks as we do with steel forks. Over the years, we’ve used many carbon forks on tandems as well. We are not concerned about carbon as a material. Our concern is in educating the tandem cyclist about the need for a MUCH stronger fork than is required for use on a single bike. So Carbon Junkies, please don’t flame me.

Example:

Enve Forks for Tandem use
Enve, one of the industries main manufacturers of carbon forks (and our favorite race forks), specifically states right on their main web page that their forks on NOT for tandem use
.


How does all of this relate to tandems?
Most carbon fork makers dropped out of the tandem market over the last few years, including our favorite. There are still a few heavier carbon forks that are recommended for tandem use, so if you want a carbon tandem fork you can get one. In the absence of the really light carbon tandem forks, some riders (and manufacturers) are throwing caution to the wind and installing ultra-light carbon race forks on their tandems to save a few ounces. I’m here to tell you, if you’re looking to save weight on your tandem, there are plenty of ways to do that without resorting to an unsafe fork that isn’t designed for the rigors of tandem use.

See for yourself
A quick web search for images of ‘racing tandems’ will turn up literally hundreds of photos of tandems using the ENVE 2.0 fork pictured here, even though the Enve company specifically stresses that this fork is NOT for tandem use.

Weight for it……
The theory goes like this: “Enve puts a weight limit of 350 pounds on the fork, so as long as we don’t go over that limit, we’re golden!” Realize that this weight limit includes the rider, all the rider’s gear, clothing, water, etc.., and their bike. That same internet search (along with little common sense) will show that a huge portion of these tandem teams are certainly at, or even greatly exceeding that weight limit. The problem with that theory is that it doesn’t say “OK for tandems up to 350 pounds” and there’s a difference. Read on to see why a weight limit for a single bike is different than a tandem recommendation.

Realize, Enve is our favorite carbon fork manufacturer and we use a lot of their products. If Enve made a fork recommended for tandem use, we would use it on our tandems. We want to see this company thrive, and that gets difficult if someone gets hurt on one of their forks.

Now, after four decades in the business, we’ve just about seen it all. History seems to be repeating itself, and the mistakes along with it. We’ve seen companies (and customers) make these mistakes before with devastating results. Recently in our repair shop, we’ve seen some dangerous close calls (on other brands of bikes) and thought it was about time to write an article to educate you, the rider, as well as any in the industry who will listen about the dangers of using non-tandem forks on tandems. Some of these close calls were even on tandem recommended carbon forks that were just past their prime.


A Warning
When it comes to choosing a fork for your tandem, DO NOT choose one that the fork manufacturer will not recommend or warranty for tandem use. I strongly recommend that if you purchase a tandem (used or new) with a 3rd party carbon fork in it, research or email the fork manufacturer to verify that your carbon fork is tandem rated. If you’re not sure, don’t use it.

A broken fork is often a catastrophic event, and on a tandem it’s a horrifying thought. Take it from us, there are better ways to save weight than to sacrifice safety.

Something else everyone should know is that carbon fiber forks that use carbon fiber steering tubes are not designed to last forever. Tandem recommended or not, any fork that uses a carbon fiber steering tube should be inspected occasionally and replaced after its life expectancy is over.

Alright, on with the article


OK, so why isn’t the maximum weight limit the same as a tandem recommendation?

It would seem on the surface that the fork’s maximum weight rating would be the same for a tandem as for a single bike. Here’s the problem, and it’s actually a good problem. People ride faster on tandems. If you are a person who rides about 16 ~ 18 mph on your single bike, and your riding partner averages about the same, then on a tandem you will ride faster. You’ll probably ride more like 18 ~ 21 mph when you are riding together. If you’re a person who rides 45mph down long descents, then you’ll probably ride that same descent over 50mph on the tandem. That extra speed (velocity) amplifies the amount of energy impacting your fork greatly. Instead of a maximum weight limit, maybe the fork manufacturer should recommend a maximum energy limit, or at least a recommendation that takes into account weight and speed.

Some science and stuff
There are a lot of forces at work when trying to determine the amount of energy affecting your fork, and a lot of different equations to determine that. In all of them, there are more stresses on your fork when more speed and/or weight is applied. We need to select one formula to use here, and we used kinetic energy as it accounts for both weight and speed. The formula to determine kinetic energy is E=½MV² (Energy = ½Mass X (Velocity X Velocity) )

Now, I’m sure scientists who read this are thinking “what about acceleration, weight distribution, force, etc..”? Someone with more knowledge and time than I could write a paper on the subject, but for the sake of brevity, I had to boil it down to one easy equation. Rest assured that any equation used will show more stress on the fork if more weight and/or speed are applied.


Here’s how much it changes the mixture: 350 pounds traveling at 21 mph will impact the fork with 35% more energy than 350 pounds traveling at 18 mph. Rough surfaces, pot holes, braking, etc…. will all put 35% more impact on your fork with just that slight increase in speed. And this example is not really a very realistic one.

Now let’s visit the real world. Most people riding the uber-light fork on their single bike do not weigh anywhere near 350 pounds. Let’s use me as an example of the average uber-light fork rider as I ride a bike with one. 180 pound rider with 20 pounds of bike and gear = 200 pounds. As a tandem team, let’s say that a fit team could have a 180 pound captain, 135 pound stoker, and 35 pounds of bike and gear (helmets, wallets, sunglasses, clothing, shoes, phones, any accessories, etc…) = 350 pounds total weight. This even keeps our tandem team right at that weight limit of the Enve 2.0 fork.

Using our kinetic energy equation, the amount of force that the fork is subjected to in this tandem team is 270% more than me on my solo bike. This is assuming a modest average speed gain of just 3mph (18mph ~ 21mph). If we put the speeds at 45mph for the solo rider, and 55mph for the tandem team, the difference is even greater at 300%.

So, at the least, the fork is being subjected to 35% more force than it is designed to take. In a real life scenario, the fork is being pushed up to 300% over its design specifications. For some components, these extra forces may acceptable, but for a fork, I feel that there is no need to push those limits and to accept that risk.


The Wrap Up

Rodriguez uber-light steel tandem fork

Rodriguez Steel Light-weight Tandem Fork

We can build an extremely light weight tandem without compromising performance or safety. A lot of manufacturers eliminate the lateral stiffener tube to save weight, but that affects performance more than safety. Some use wheels that are built super-light for solo bikes, but that’s a durability issue. Using a fork that is too light is a safety issue and should not be done by a rider or a manufacturer.

What do we do at Rodriguez?
For the time being, we use exclusively steel tandem forks on all of our tandems, including our new uber-light 25.8 pound model. That weight is verified and guaranteed on our digital scale here in the shop. We have a full repair shop, and we service every make of tandem every year. We’ve seen every brand and every model here over time, and we’ve weighed all the light ones. Our Rodriguez uber-light steel tandem is lighter than any other tandem that’s ever been in our shop regardless of the frame/fork material. Our bike has no compromises, and even has a steel fork, aluminum cranks, a lateral stiffener tube and a tandem wheel set. There’s no reason to compromise performance, weight, or durability if you want an uber-light tandem from Rodriguez.


Visit us soon, we’d love to build your new ride!

Thanks for reading -Dan

Rodriguez Super Light Steel Tandem

The Rodriguez feather-weight tandem for 2014

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The New Carbon….Carbon Steel!




The New Carbon….Carbon Steel!

What’s lighter than a modern carbon bike? The new 13.5 pound Rodriguez Outlaw

This morning, I dropped my old truck off for repairs, and pulled my bike out of the back to ride on in to work. The mechanic was impressed with the nice paint job. It’s always fun to have someone lift my Rodriguez S3 bike and watch their jaw drop as they effortlessly lift it chest high with just one hand. So, I handed the bike over to him and said “Lift it up”.

Well, he lifted it, and as expected, his jaw did drop. He said “I gotta show this to the other guys!” So he rolled it to the back of the shop, lifting it several more times in disbelief as he went. Once there, he handed it to the other mechanics and told them to lift it up. Needless to say, they had the same reaction as he did. I asked them all “What do you think the bike is made of?” They all said in unison “Carbon fiber…”….then, noticing that I was shaking my head ‘no’ one of them said “Titanium?” “No” I said. “This is an American made steel bike, made right here in Seattle”. The surprise on their faces was evident as they all lifted the bike several more times, and one of them even took out his magnetic ‘pick-up’ pen device and stuck it right to the top tube just to make sure it was steel.

If you ask most people why they bought a carbon fiber bike, the answer invariably comes back “Carbon bikes are lighter weight”. Well, what if that’s not true? What if that’s just something you’ve been told? What if a comparably priced steel bike was just as light as a carbon fiber bike? Would you still want a carbon bike? Now, what if a comparably priced steel bike was even lighter than the carbon bike? How about one step further…what if a steel bike was lighter, less expensive and rode faster?

Think I’m crazy? Let’s peel the layers off of the onion and get to the truth about carbon fiber mania. The fact is, here at Rodriguez we did make carbon fiber bikes, but that was 35 years ago. Yes, you read right. 35 years ago we made custom carbon fiber bikes. I’ve written a slew of info about frame materials here if you are having trouble sleeping. Material World is a 4 part article that I wrote for the Bicycle Paper a while back.

Before we start: Is weight the only consideration for spending a lot of money on a bicycle? How about fit, durability, color, ride quality or longevity? Do these matter to you at all? If so, you’ll want to read on. If weight’s the only thing important to you, then you should read on as well, because I think you’ll be surprised.

Along for the Ride
We can start with the premise that most people prefer the ride quality of a steel frame to carbon. Heck, even a lot of carbon bike manufacturers cede the argument to steel for durability and ride quality. So what if you could pay less money, have a faster riding bike, more comfortable frame, and still have the lightest bike in the crowd? Sounds to good to be true right? Well, I’m actually talking about our 13.5 pound 2013 Rodriguez Outlaw, and it’s very real! As a matter of fact we’ve converted dozens of carbon frame riders to the Outlaw by just allowing a test ride on this amazing bike! Even the most die-hard carbon enthusiast will have to admit this bike cannot be beat.

Side note here for those of you who think you have a lighter bike than the Outlaw.
I have had several people tell me they have a friend with a lighter bike than the Outlaw, but have yet to weigh one. The closest carbon bike to come in here was still 2 ounces heavier than the Outlaw, but was twice the price. Seeing is believing. We keep a scale at our front desk so that we can weigh bikes that come in, and we’ve weighed just about everything. Don’t trust word of mouth as our industry is full of….well….inaccuracy at best when it comes to weights. I know that a lot of manufacturers publish weights in their catalogs and websites that are untrue. If you want to have some fun, buy a small digital scale and carry around with you to bike shops. Ask what a bike weighs, and then pull out the scale to verify it. I’ve done it, and it’s a blast! Like to read more about that?


All right, all right, back to business

I know, I know….you’re reading all of this, but then you pick up a magazine and read a glowing review of a sweet carbon fiber bike from some giant company. How can that be? Wouldn’t they be reviewing steel bikes if steel was so cool?

Let’s have a look at the vicious ‘Cycle of Business’ shall we?
Magazines review bicycles that their advertisers send to them for review. Companies send bikes for review that they want to sell. Look through the magazine and you’ll usually find an advertisement for the very bike that got that glowing review…..sometimes just opposite the review itself. It’s no coincidence. Big companies that advertise don’t make hand-built steel bikes. That’s because carbon fiber bikes are inexpensive to build overseas, so it would make sense to prime the public to want them. Not to say that the review isn’t genuine. The reviewer probably really liked the bike. It’s just that the opportunity to ride that bike for review is not a random selection, but a selection from an advertiser. The Cycle Continues

“Well, what about the pros?” you ask. “The pros only ride the best right? Almost all the pros ride carbon fiber, so doesn’t that make it the best?” Right and wrong. You see, the pros don’t ride a bike that they expect to last year after year (durability). Heck, a lot of them don’t even require their frame and fork to last one race. So, if by ‘best’ you include durability in your criteria, a pro has no need for that.

A pro does have a need for sponsorship though, and if their sponsor is trying to sell carbon fiber frames, then carbon fiber they will ride. After all, it’s their job to sell bikes. If we paid millions in sponsorship to a pro team, then they would be thrilled to ride steel Rodriguez Outlaw hand-built bikes (but, that’s not going to happen). If your criteria is “I ride what I’m paid the most $$ to ride” then at this point in history, carbon is the best. I’m not saying that a carbon frame will not perform, I’m just saying that it is not a superior performance to steel.


Fit note: – Realize also that the pros are riding bicycle geometries designed to fit them and their riding style. When you purchase that same frame in a store, you’re not purchasing a bike to fit you, but rather a bike to fit the pro it was made for. Ask your sales person what it would cost to get that same frame made truly custom to fit your body and riding style.

Good natured sarcastic rant warning
What’s fashion got to do with it? With all of the magazine ads, pro sponsorships, certain bike shops, and even industry rags smack-talking any bike that isn’t carbon, it’s almost fashionable to ride carbon fiber. I’d say that it’s become so fashionable in some circles that you almost have to be a heretic to ride steel. One more great reason that we call this bike the Outlaw I say. Peer pressure is a powerful motivator, but we’re here to help give you the ammunition to resist…..come to the dark side……be an Outlaw….like Alice Cooper says, Flush the Fashion!

This ‘cycle’ of promotion steers the consumer to the product the manufacturers wants to sell. Now, obviously I’m trying to do the same thing, but I’m willing to put my money where my mouth is. Basically, you’ve got to verify weight if it’s important to you. I think that if you do that, you’ll find that here at Rodriguez, we can build your bike in America just as light as any overseas carbon bike. I’m confident that if you ride our bike back to back with a carbon bike, you’ll choose the Rodriguez every time….just like Steve and countless others have over last few years.

With the fashion sufficiently flushed, let’s get down to earth

I think that I’ve shown here that a light weight bicycle can be achieved through either material, so I would like to put all the hype about weight aside for minute, and talk about some things that are way more important.

1.) Fit: If your bicycle doesn’t fit well, you’re going to hate riding it no matter what it’s made out of. At Rodriguez we view fit as the most important component to any bicycle. We offer a fit guarantee with every bicycle we sell. Here’s a few articles that I’ve written over the years to back-up what I’m talking about on this subject. Ignoring fit when buying your bicycle is a huge mistake that many people make.

2.) Longevity: If you don’t care how long your new bike will last, then don’t worry about this section.

Most of our customers plan to ride their new Rodriguez for many years to come. What the consumer doesn’t realize is that our industry is steering very heavily toward a disposable product model by engineering bicycles to only last 5 to 10 years. Sure, carbon fiber frames with their short warranties are part of that model, but an even greater problem is wreaking havoc at bicycle repair shops all around the country. This is the trend of straying from industry standards to proprietary parts.

What the heck am I talking about? If you don’t know what ISO standards are, and proprietary parts are, you’re bound to end up on a bicycle that will end up in a land fill before its time. Yes, I’ve written a few things on the subject.

Here at Rodriguez, we reject the disposable bike philosophy, and substitute our own. A Rodriguez is built to be a forever bike.

3.) Personality: Do you have a favorite color? Why not paint your bike that color? At Rodriguez, your bike isn’t built until you order it, so you can choose any color you want. Obviously this isn’t a benefit exactly of a steel frame only, but Rodriguez customers love to have their new steed reflect their personality.

4.) Made in USA: I think there is something to be said for purchasing your bicycle from a company that is committed to manufacturing their products right here in the USA. We’ve seen almost every manufacturer move their production overseas in the last 2 decades in search of those creamy profits at the top. At Rodriguez, we’ve changed our manufacturing methods to provide the

greatest value and made in USA quality. We even manufacture parts in Seattle that we ship to Taiwan companies. How many manufacturers can say that?

The fact the we make your bike right here, means that we can customize more than just the paint. We can change geometry, braze-on fittings, tubing weights, wheel color, tires, you name it, we can do it!

5.) Most importantly: Don’t buy a bike, buy a shop! Really, it’s not about the bike. I can’t stress enough how important your relationship to your shop will be for your cycling enjoyment. A good shop has mature, professional employees who spend an hour or more fitting you to a bicycle before they sell you something. You should get a fit/comfort guarantee with your bicycle as well. Can you bring it back for a refund if you don’t like it? This is important, right?

6.) Get a Guarantee!! I cannot believe how many people have expensive bikes that are only a few weeks old and they hate them (like Jane). Why don’t they get their money back? Well, the shop or manufacturer doesn’t offer a satisfaction guarantee. Realize, any bike can be comfortable on a 10 minute test ride. The real test is how you feel on it after a few weeks. That gives you time to really settle in to the fit that your fitting professional has recommended, and feel how the bike reacts to your daily riding style. If the shop, or bicycle manufacturer, you’re working with doesn’t offer free fitting (including free stem and bar swaps) for their bicycle customers after the sale, I would strongly consider another shop. A lot of shops do not offer such a guarantee, so it’s your job as a consumer to ask that question before you purchase.

If they don’t offer a 30 day money back satisfaction guarantee, then realize that you will possibly be paying hundreds of dollars for fit work at another shop in order to relieve your pains, or, like Jane, you’ll just ride your old bike and let the new one hang in the garage. Now-a-days, high quality bicycles sell for $3,000, $6,000, $10,000 or more! That’s a lot of dinero for a wall hanger!

Wow! That’s a lot huh? If you’re looking for an uber-light bike, a heavy duty commuter, or and all-around bike for any occasion, we’d love to have a shot at becoming your bicycle company. Here at Rodriguez, we realize that the most important choice you make when selecting your new ride is the people that you are working with.

Thanks for reading

Dan

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Bike and Pike: Best Party Ever!

Thank you all for coming!

I can’t express enough how much we all appreciate your support for our Bike and Pike event. The whole team here had a great time. Seeing you all was a great start to the 2013 cycling season! Bike and Pike has become a special even for us here at R+E Cycles, and this year it was more successful than ever. We raised almost 40% more than last year for Food Lifeline….enough for almost 10,000 meals to local food banks. Thank you all for attending and making this year a great success.

‘R+E United’

It had been almost 30 years since Angel Rodriguez and Glenn Erickson had seen each other. It was a special sight to see them reminisce, catch up on life, and share photos over their phones and various electronic media. A big thanks to both of them for making the trip for the 40th anniversary. We were all thrilled to see them both. They had a great time catching up with customers from the 1970’s, and meeting our new customers as well. I hope that you all enjoyed seeing them as much as they enjoyed seeing you.

“Will we see you at Seattle Bike Expo?”

Customers often ask if they’ll see us at Bike Expo, NAHBS or some other exposition show that other custom bike companies attend. We do not attend these shows any longer. We’re not crazy though, read on.

2013 marks the 5th year that R+E Cycles and Pike Brewing Company have put on our own fundraiser event instead of attending other exposition type events. The first year, we had some trepidation about doing this, but since then we’ve learned that we can serve our customers and our community better this way. Doing our own event means that the show comes to us, and we continue our mission of serving our customers relatively uninterrupted. Now we don’t have put our customer’s bikes on hold in order to spend a week or two building and painting special show bikes for display, only to close the shop for a weekend so that we can show them off. Instead, we can keep building and painting the bikes that have already been ordered, thereby keeping our delivery schedule on track. Customers with bikes on order can come by and see their bike in progress during the event, and know that they are truly our first priority. Add to that the fact that we can raise thousands for a local charity, and it really seems like a no-brainer.

With the smashing success of this year’s event, we know that the Bike and Pike is going to be around for a long time. Thanks again for your support. Have a great cycling season!

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Mission: Impossible

“Why didn’t I see you at Seattle Bike Expo?”
This time of year, customers often ask if they’ll see us at Bike Expo, NAHBS or some other exposition show that other custom bike companies attend. So many customers have asked me that over the last 5 years that I thought maybe they were due an explanation. We do not exhibit at these shows any longer. Although that would have seemed like a crazy decision to me just 10 years ago, business models change to suit the needs of their customers. After 40 years in business, we’ve learned a thing or 2 about what our customers want from us. We’re not crazy (at least I don’t think so)….read on and find out why.

Mission: Impossible
The story of a customer focused business trying to operate in a conventional way

Imagine trying to put together a bicycle display that will compete with Specialized, Trek, Cervelo, and all of the other national and international bicycle companies. Sounds like a big task right? Well, let’s keep going. Now, imagine trying to put that display together while at the same time running a full scale bicycle shop. You have to keep fitting customers for new bikes, selling new bikes, answering the phones, answering your email, and working the sales floor just like any other day. Sounds a little harder right? Well, that’s not all. In your shop, you have to keep welding, painting, and assembling the bikes that are already sold. Now, you also have to keep the ordering going full time so that parts are here for those sold bikes, and don’t forget, you have to run a full service bike repair shop too.

If all of this weren’t enough, assume that you’ve developed a large parts manufacturing business throughout the last decade. You have to do all of the previous stuff while at the same time manufacturing thousands of parts that have already been promised to overseas customers. After machining, these parts will have to be anodized, fully assembled, boxed and shipped to the customers.

The Hard Part:
Now here’s the hard part (I bet you thought you’d already heard the hard part). You have to do all of this on a small business budget with the same 15 staff members that work at your shop all year long. Looking back on it, it doesn’t sound hard as much as it sounds crazy. The truth is, we couldn’t do all of what we do well, and do an expo display well too. If you want to read more about what the last expo we attended was like, read on…
…the inner workings of preparing for an expo:

Going to an exposition sets us back about 3 weeks. There’s no way to do an expo without putting orders (parts and bikes) already placed onto the back burner. It doesn’t seem fair, but that’s how it is.

Here’s a quick timeline of how an expo worked for us:

After several planning meetings, various departments were assigned to do things to prepare for the show. These meetings were expensive, and so was the booth at the show ($4,000 the last time we attended) so it was important to make a big impression….at least it seemed important at the time.

Ignoring what’s really important:
First of all, we started preparing for an expo a few months ahead of time, by making room in the build queue for some special ‘show bikes’. By ‘making room’ I mean putting customer’s bikes on the back burner. Then, about 10 days before the show, we did nothing in the paint shop except paint show bikes. Again, customer’s bikes would have to wait. The repair shop was kept busy assembling bikes for the show, and helping me build whatever booth fixtures we had designed. Before you knew it, we were backed up in the repair shop too (even repair customers had to wait).

On Thursday before the event, we would need to pick up the rental truck to haul all of the show bikes and custom displays that we had built. Most of the staff spent Thursday and Friday carefully wrapping the bikes and loading the truck, only to unload it again at the event a few hours later. Customer repairs and fitting appointments were not allowed from Thursday until the next Tuesday. This was because our trained staff would all be at the show trying to make a good impression on all of the show attendees. The actual store would be staffed with temporary volunteer ‘friends’ until we returned on Tuesday.

The show:
Now, we’d been working non-stop 10 ~ 12 hour days the week before the show, and now we would work 3 more 12 hour days in a row. Saturday would start early and would be a 12 hour day of standing on concrete floors and shaking hands. It’s really great to see the customers, but it was also a little embarrassing when someone with a bike on order would ask “How’s my bike coming?” Obviously, they had a bike that was put on the ‘back burner’ while we prepared for the show.

Sunday (usually a day off for everyone here) would be another 10 hours on the concrete floor, and then a long night. After the show closed, we carefully wrapped the bikes and loaded all of them and displays back onto the truck. We then drove back to the shop, and hastily unloaded everything. I usually took the staff out for pizza at this point before we all went home and collapsed in our beds.

Monday (usually our other day off for everyone) was spent putting everything back in order on the sales floor, returning the rental truck and any other rented items, and trying to assess the state of the bikes and parts on order (How far behind were we? Who do we need to call to tell them their bike will be late?).

Doing an exposition means that most of the staff loses their 2 days off that week, and we start the next week in a stupor. All of this, while putting our customers on the ‘back burner’ just didn’t make sense anymore.

What are we doing?
If you’re still reading, then you’ve just read a brief synopsis of our last expo (over five years ago now). Imagine going through all of that effort to discover at the last minute that your booth would not be in the prime location that you reserved several months in advance, but rather in the back of the event. In short, you got ‘bumped’ for a larger company. This is what happened to us, and it really lead us to examine what our mission was as a company. Our mission is to ‘exceed our customer’s expectations for service’, but were we doing that?. After analyzing the amount of effort put into that show, we couldn’t get away from the fact that we were being drawn away from our mission when taking part in these expo type events. How were our customers being served by being ‘bumped’ for ‘show stopper’ bikes?

While it was disappointing to be ‘bumped’ to the back of the room, it was no different than what we were doing to our customers :-(

Redirection Required:
It was after this last show that we decided to do something very different, and the Bike and Pike was born. The Bike and Pike Event is our way of celebrating Seattle, cycling, and the customers who make our business possible. We can do this in a way that doesn’t disrupt our daily work, and in fact, we build bikes all the way through the show. No staff member misses their days off, so we continue on fresh the next week. Attendees have a great time, enjoy some incredible Seattle brews, bikes and more. No special bikes have to be built, as ‘the show’ is watching us build the bikes that are in process already. That’s more fun anyway, right?

Supporting the Seattle community:
The Bike and Pike offers two important things for Seattle

1.) A low cost way for new Seattle businesses to show their stuff. Seattle small businesses that are friends of the shop like Willie Weir, Bikelava, T’s Leatherworks, Jenise’s Jammers, and others get to display their products to attendees and we don’t charge them a dime for the booth. We see it as a way to help them get their businesses off the ground.

2.) Giving back to the community. Before the first Bike and Pike, Charlie and Rose Ann of Pike Place Brewing Company and I got together and discussed what type of event we would like to have. It was great to have an inexpensive way for small Seattle businesses to get the word out, but we also thought we should find a way to raise money for a local charity. Food Lifeline has been a great resource here in the Northwest for local food banks, so we decided to put 100% of any money raised on the event to them.

It’s a keeper!
The success of this years event was sensational! After 5 years, we’ve decided that Bike and Pike really fits our mission, and has allowed us to present our true product to attendees. That product? Dedication to service and to those customers who put their trust in us as their manufacturer, bike shop, and friend. Thank you all for choosing us, and here’s to 40 more great years in Seattle!

Thanks for reading – Dan

We’re Turning 40!

We’re 40 and we’re thrilled!

Our 40th year in business has started off with a BANG! Here it is, only February 7th, and we already have 15 sold tandems in progress! That’s a tandem every 1.7 days for every day that we’ve been open in 2013. This is a record number of tandems to have on order this early in the year. Amongst this record tandem trend, we have huge number of touring, sport and race bikes in progress as well. If that weren’t enough, we are also on track for a record Rohloff year. Yes indeed, we’re off to a very busy 40th anniversary year!

Make it a Double
As 2013 marks 4 decades of business here in Seattle for our company, it also marks a major anniversary for me as well. 2013 is my 20th year as owner of the company. It’s hard to believe that it’s been 20 years, but I checked my watch and it’s true. Time flies when you get to work with great people I suppose. I really believe that we have the best staff in this industry, and the best staff that has ever been at R+E Cycles. I wish that everyone had the chance to work with the people that I work with on a daily basis. I’m not just talking about the staff though.

I would also like to take just a moment here to thank all of you who’ve given us the opportunity to be your bicycle company. Unlike other manufacturers, we don’t buy expensive advertising in magazines, and word of mouth is really our main form of attracting new customers. All these years you’ve been telling your friends and family about us, and that’s really what keeps us going. Each day here in the shop is like a family reunion as we recognize most customers by name. Year after year we see the same faces. I don’t want to forget about the new members of the Rodriguez family either….the long distance members. Over the last 5 years the internet has really brought a lot of new folks to the team. About 50% of our bikes are now shipped out across the U.S. or even to other countries. Even though you guys can’t make it to the shop, we still value your patronage and hope that we have been able to serve you as well as those who visit us in person.

40th Rodriguez anniversary, my 20th anniversary as owner…….I figure that’s really a double cause for some major upgrades around the shop as we venture into our 5th decade of serving our customers. Even though we are busier than we could have anticipated this winter, we’ve still cooked up some incredible projects around the shop to celebrate. Here are just a few things that we’ve been up to:

  • Historical Rodriguez Display is in place
    For 20 years I’ve wanted to put up a historical Rodriguez bike display. We have several Rodriguez bikes that people have donated over the years, and I’ve been storing them until I had the time to put together the display. Well, I didn’t have the time, but this winter I committed to it anyway and we got it done!
  • Rodriguez tandem review in 2013′s first issue of Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine
    Recumbent & Tandem Rider Magazine wanted to review a Rodriguez tandem. I told them that the big difference in tandems is the manufacturer’s relationship with their customer. To highlight that relationship, I wanted them to review the whole process of creating a custom Rodriguez tandem. From Fit to Finish, they took me up on it, and we built a custom tandem for their reviewer. The review is very thorough and covers the fitting process, the paint selection and everything that our customers experience when they order a Rodriguez custom tandem.
  • Angel Rodriguez and Glenn Erickson both attending our open house celebration
    There are not many custom shops that last 40 years. The legacy of R+E Cycles is a long one here in Seattle. For our Bike and Pike celebration this year, we wanted to have both R+E founders here to mark the occasion. I contacted both Angel (my old boss) and Glenn, and they’re both up for the event. Join us on Saturday, March 2nd and you’ll get to meet them as well as many other Seattle bike legends.
  • In-store slideshow image displays
    We have thousands of photos from the past and present that now live on a photo server here at R+E Cycles. We have three monitors mounted around the shop that are continuously displaying the images in a slide show fashion. It’s truly amazing the memorabilia a trip to the crawl space can produce when you’ve been around for 4 decades! I actually found boxes of photos and magazine articles hidden under the floor boards since the 1970′s. I’ve caught myself almost hypnotized watching the photos roll by, so be careful.
  • New R+E Cycles T-shirts
    I almost took this one off the list for 2013, but then out of the blue, our T-shirt screening company called and asked if we wanted to run T-shirts this winter. When I explained that I was too busy to go out there and put together the order, Darla offered to meet us here at the shop. Well, just this morning the first new R+E t-shirt design in over 15 years was delivered in the form of t-shirts! Lots of ‘em and they look great! They’ll be on sale at the shop for $19.99. Act now, and get one at a special retro price of just $14.99 until our open house on March 2nd.
  • A huge collection of Rodriguez bike photograph galleries on the website
    Beau has been snapping photos like a wild man over the last few years. With about 1,000 photos of the Rodriguez bikes we’ve built just over the last 2 years, it was getting difficult to sort through them on the website. Jeremy put together a sortable database of the image galleries that you can now access on our website. It should make looking through pictures of Rodriguez bike models more fun than ever!
  • The Rodriguez on-line customer scrap book is now sortable and easier to view
    Since the website went up in December of 1994, the on-line customer scrap book has been growing and growing. This winter, Jeremy put together a database of the scrap book entries, and made it searchable. Now you can view the adventures of Rodriguez owners in a more ordered way that relates to the topics that you want to see. It was a trip down memory lane to format the letters and photos for the scrap book, and lots of fun times were churned up in my mind. You’ll have the same experience I’m sure, so you should check it out.
  • 40th Anniversary coffee mugs and pint glasses

    We had some special coffee mugs and pint glasses made for our 40th anniversary as well. They will be on sale in the shop for $6 each or $20 for a set of 4. All proceeds up until and during our March 2nd open house will be donated to Food Lifeline.

  • Last and least
    We’ve given the shop some needed deferred maintenance. Along with all of the other goodies, we’ve refinished the floors, painted the frame shop, and had a new sign made to mount above the entry door.

So there you have it. We’ve been very busy this winter and we hope that you enjoy some of the improvements that we’ve made to the shop and the website. Really though, it’s all about bicycles here at R+E Cycles, and now I’ve got to get back to the business of designing bikes so we can get them built. I do enjoy writing a bit, and I’ve enjoyed this time out to tell you about what we’ve been up to, but the CAD program beckons me to continue yet a few more tandem designs (one for a California customer and one for an Oregonian). Now let’s get that 5th decade underway, shall we?

Thanks for reading

- Dan

Look Ma! No Derailleurs!

Look Ma! No Derailleurs!!
(As originally published in The Bicycle Paper in Summer of 2011

Rohloff Speedhub illustrationsOver the last 8 years or so, we’ve seen a lot of interest in internally geared rear hubs (IGH for short). A bike with an IGH has all of the gears housed inside the rear hub instead of using traditional cogs, derailleurs and chain rings. Remember your old 3-speed (or your parent’s old 3-speed)? It’s like that, but with a lot more gears. IGH technology is an old one (over 100 years old actually), but with the invention of derailleurs, the 3-sp IGH was abandoned by most cyclists for the unlimited gearing options of the derailleur. I don’t see the end of derailleurs anytime soon, but for those who are investigating IGH, we’re trying to help you with your homework.

When Todd Bertram, a master frame builder here at R+E Cycles in Seattle, returned from Germany in 2003 he brought with him something special. It was a finely crafted piece of German engineering known as the Rohloff Speedhub. He’d spent almost two years in Germany, worked in the Rohloff factory, and had seen a lot of these on bicycles throughout Europe. He had a sneaking suspicion that soon, this engineering marvel would capture the eye of American cyclists as well.

A Rohloff hub has 14 speeds instead of just 3. Now the IGH rider could have the same range of gearing that would be found on a traditional 27-speed touring bike. A bicycle equipped with a Rohloff Speedhub has no derailleurs to worry about, and is virtually trouble free as far as shifting goes.

Since 2003, news of the Rohloff Speedhub slowly made the trip around the world to the United States. What used to be a curiosity is now an accepted design. Because of its trouble-free reputation, it has become a popular item with touring cyclists, and ‘go-anywhere’ cyclists. Building Rohloff equipped bicycles has become an industry in and of itself. The special hub calls for some special frame design to make life easier for the rider though. Custom frame builders all over the U.S. are trying to design adaptations for their touring bikes to accommodate customers who are requesting this new hub.

As the builder of Rodriguez Bicycles, we got lots of questions from curious adventurers, but we didn’t start getting a lot of orders until 2009. Since then, sales have ballooned. We’ve seen our sales of Rohloff equipped bikes double each year over the last 3 years. As of November 2011, Rodriguez Bicycles has become the number one builder of Rohloff equipped bicycles in the United States as confirmed by Cyclemonkey, the exclusive U.S. Rohloff importer. (Probably the reason we were asked to write this article).

Who wants an IGH? While most of our Rodriguez Touring bikes are still equipped with derailleurs (just Shimano these days) higher end touring cyclists have been looking for alternatives to derailleur equipped bikes. This is because Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano have all but abandoned the high-end touring market. Instead, the big 3 have focused their advertising and development on racing equipment that’s expensive, doesn’t hold up for touring, and limits the gearing ratios too much for touring. Shimano still has a some great derailleur options for the sub $2,500 bike market, but for the high end, a lot of folks are now considering the move away from derailleurs.

Another customer who has interest in IGH is the urban commuting customer. Commuters are very hard on their equipment, and some of them are very attracted to the idea of a bike specifically designed as a trouble-free commuter.

What are the IGH options? With the worldwide popularity of the Rohloff Speedhub on the rise, Shimano has taken notice of this new market as well. Shimano has been building some IGH hubs for several years, but their offerings have always been suitable for more of an urban commuter bike rather than a serious touring bike.

Shimano Alfine illustrationsLast year, Shimano introduced their first serious entry into the field of IGH touring hubs, the Alfine 11. Now that Shimano is making a run at the high-end IGH market, that has spawned a lot (and I do mean A LOT) of IGH questions from around the world. People (as well as us) were hoping that the new Shimano hub would give them Rohloff performance at Shimano prices. As a major Rohloff builder, a lot of those questions have come to us.

When the The Bicycle Paper asked me to write an article comparing IGH hub options, Jeremy and I were actually in the middle of answering those very questions in the form of an FAQ series on our website. So, as it happens, we have the answers:

In addition to Rohloff equipped bikes, we have now built and sold several bikes with Shimano IGH hubs on them as well. Our experience with the different hubs shows us the best use for each.

We’ll compare 3 different hubs (the 3 we’ve built with): The Shimano Alfine 8-speed, the Shimano Alfine 11-sp, and the Rohloff Speedhub 14-sp. Shimano does make some lower end 8-sp IGH hubs (Nexus), but this article is ‘geared’ toward the more serious cyclist.

You’ll need to be familiar with a few terms:

Gear Range: This is the % of gearing change from the lowest to the highest gear. A good range % between high and low is important for touring. ie. the higher the better. Unlike a derailleur system, for the IGH the gear range is forever. A standard modern day touring bike will come with a gearing range of about 450%. It can easily be adjusted to about 600%, but the 450% gives us a good starting point. By comparison, an old 10-speed bike from the 1970′s would come with a range of 250% or so.

Gear Ladder: Another thing to consider is what we call the Gear Ladder. The Gear Ladder is the % of distance between each individual gear change. On a derailleur system this is adjustable by using different cogs or chain rings, but for an IGH, you bought it, you got it.


First up – The Shimano Alfine 8-sp:
We’ve built several urban commuter bikes with this hub, and even a few sport/fun tandems.
  • This hub is limited to 308% gear range. More than the old 10-sp, but not really enough range for serious touring.
  • The Gear Ladder is very uneven. Ranging from 1st gear, it looks like this: 23%, 16%, 14%, 17%, 23%, 16%, 14%.
  • Wheel attachment is bolt-on only, so no quick release rear wheel.

Shimano Alfine 11-sp:
The gear range is 409%. It doesn’t quite get you to the range of a stock touring bike, and nowhere near the range of the Rohloff.

  • Although Shimano originally planned an evenly spaced Gear Ladder, the final result was disappointing to many rabid IGH fans.
  • The spread between first and second gear is a whopping 30% jump. The ladder runs even 17% and 18% for the rest of the gears, but that first 30% jump is really big.
  • The absence of a quick release makes this hub less desirable for many serious touring cyclists as well.
  • Also, for you belt drive fans, use of a belt drive on either Alfine hub will limit your tire width as well.

Rohloff Speedhub:
The King of the IGH! For the truly serious touring cyclist, the choice is the Rohloff Speedhub. We’ve built touring bikes, mountain bikes, and serious tandems equipped with Rohloff Speedhubs.

  • The Gear Ladder is a uniform 13.6% all the way through the range.
  • The Speedhub can also be ordered with a quick release axle or a bolt-on axle.
  • The design allows for better belt drive/wide tire compatibility.

All in all, the Rohloff is better suited for the customer who wants an IGH, and wants a real replacement for their touring derailleur setup.


Summary: The Alfine 11 is not really the alternative that we or the IGH touring cyclists were hoping for. While it’s a great hub for an urban commuter, our touring customers want more than it has to offer in many ways. Rather, the Alfine 11 is an alternative to the Alfine 8 for the commuter that wants a bit wider gearing range.

The serious touring cyclist will still have to choose between derailleurs or the Rohloff Speedhub.

Since a high quality custom touring bike will run you about $2,000 in our shop, a serious IGH touring bike turns out to be quite a bit more expensive. Even so, many folks are choosing to go that route in order to have the convenience and low maintenance of the Rohloff. We run about 70% derailleurs, and 30% Rohloff for the touring bikes at this point.

If you’re considering a Rohloff or other IGH equipped bicycle, the FAQ section of our website has a dozen or so articles comparing, contrasting, and listing all of the pros and cons of each design.