Bicycle Built for 4, 3, 2, and 1

Something you’ll only see at Rodriguez

Counting on you fingers
There are a lot of custom bicycle builders in the world. That list shrinks quite a bit when you look for custom tandem builders. Now, you can probably count on your fingers the number of shops that can build you a bicycle for three. Think about it….how many can you think of? Now, think of how many shops will build you a bicycle built for 4 or even 5! These are what we call Extra-Long bicycles. Is your list shrinking?

Now for the really hard stuff!
Add convertibility to the mix . What is ‘convertibility’? It’s the ability to make your Extra-Long bicycle easily convert to a bike for 3 or 2 riders. How cool is that? The number of builders that have accomplished this you can count on just one hand now.

But wait! I’m not finished. Now for the icing on the cake. How about an Extra-Long bicycle that will convert all the way down to a regular bicycle built for one? The list of builders who’ve done this can probably be counted on one finger….Rodriguez Bicycle Company of Seattle.

You won’t see much about our company in magazines or online bicycle tech sites. For some reason, they don’t take much notice of what we’ve been doing out here in Seattle for the last years now. If you’ve heard of us, it’s probably because someone you ran into along the way recommended our shop. Maybe you needed something very specific, and another shop sent you our way. (Many thanks to all of you who are getting the word out.) When it comes to the extra-ordinary, we’ve done just about everything possible with a bicycle. The crew here is the best there is.

Now about this amazing bike
This particular project was really cool. In 2002 we built one of our exclusive Rodriguez 8-ball convertible tandem/single bikes for a couple here in Seattle. This specific bike sports the very first Rodriguez bottle opener. The one on this bike was actually made by hand here in the shop at the request of the customer. I liked it so much that I traced the shape on a piece of paper, and then imported it to my computer. Then we had them custom cut for us by a company here in Seattle, and have ever since.

This Fall, that couple approached me about building a couple of sections for their children. This is something that we’ve done before, so we came up with a plan for them. They also wanted to upgrade the shifting to Rohloff and put the drag brake on the front wheel in the form of a Sturmey Archer drum brake.

All of the finished upgrades can be seen in the full photo gallery for this bicycle.

Now for a few of the progress photos:

Making room for the new bottom bracket that will contain the Bushnell eccentric. This is required for upgrading to the Rohloff rear hub. Dan P. does some great work!

The frame got a full new rear triangle to make room for wider tires, Rohloff rear hub, and Bushnell eccentric

The frame stretched out on the frame table and the beginning of the 3rd section.

All of the finished upgrades can be seen in the full photo gallery for this bicycle.

Rodriguez and Erickson Custom Bicycles Logo

A Super light Custom Travel Tandem

Highlight: A fly-weight steel travel tandem from Rodriguez

These have been really hot in 2016!

Super Light Custom Steel Tandem by Rodriguez

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Custom Rodriguez Tandem with S&S couplings

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

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

View the full photo gallery for this bike here

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

The New Rodriguez Bandito

The Lightest Road Bike with Disc Brakes!

Unleash the Beast!

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

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

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

Custom Steel bike with disc brakes by Rodriguez

Verified 15.9 pounds with disc brakes and 32c tires!

First up: 32c Tires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading – Dan 11-2016

Related Articles

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

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:

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

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?

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

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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