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.


Steel Rodriguez Outlaw vs. Carbon S-Works Tarmac

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

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

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

The Shootout – Who’s the Real Featherweight?

Steel Rodriguez Outlaw vs. Carbon S-Works Tarmac

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links inside this article:

Wouldn’t you Rather Have a Custom Tandem?

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

Today’s Topic: Free custom tandem sizing at Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

different article if you want to read it.

A quick word about our new way of building bicycles

In 2006, we developed our

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

best value in the industry.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Up — An obvious custom

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

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

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

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

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

Custom Tandem Number 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Third time’s the charm…or is it?

‘Stock’ looking couple – ‘Stock’ looking bike

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wrap Up

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

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

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

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

Dan – April, 2014

More technical tandem articles

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

Linked in this article

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

The Ultimate Micro Travel Bike from Rodriguez Returns!

Bike To The Future!

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

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

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

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

Meet Steve

Steve with his 2009 Rodriguez
6-Pack micro-bike

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

Somethin’ Up Our Sleeve

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

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

A picture’s worth 1,000 words

The original 1997
Rodriguez 6-Pack

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks Steve, for giving us a shot!

Dan – April, 2014

The Original Tandem to Single Bike Convertible

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

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

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

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

Evolution with intelligent design:
The first Rodriguez 8-ball was built in 1997 (that’s seventeen years ago as I write this article) and put in our printed catalog for 1999. 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

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

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.

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!

The lightest fork for a tandem bicycle

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.


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

Links in this article:

The New Carbon….Carbon Steel!

Steel frames can be lighter than carbon frames

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


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