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.


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?

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

Rainer Beer!

How much do you love your favorite beer?

Do you love it enough to design a tandem bicycle after it? Check out this amazing tandem that will be turning heads all over town! The owners, local to Seattle, really appreciate Rainier beer, and they ordered this bike fully customized to match a Rainier can. Every component was hand-picked, from red bar tape to gold spoke nipples, and we even had custom decals made in the Rainier font!

Disco Fever

In our industry, products from the past seem to re-appear quite often. Bicycle disc brakes are one such item. Like a Phoenix, they’ve risen from the ashes a 3rd time in just the last 40 years. Since their acceptance as

Article Overview
In our industry, products from the past seem to re-appear quite often. Bicycle disc brakes are one such item. Like a Phoenix, they’ve risen from the ashes a 3rd time in just the last 40 years. Since their acceptance as a superior brake for the mountain bike, it seems that more and more people are asking about them for their road bikes. Most manufacturers are happy to just slap them on, but is there more to consider? Are they better for every type of bike and every type of riding? Let’s follow the history a bit, and see.

This article is for those who want to learn more about bicycle disc brakes. It’s not to convince the reader that disc brakes are good or bad. My purpose is to let you all know that disc brakes have been around a long time in our industry, and there are upsides and downsides to them. We’ve built hundreds of frames over the last 40 years that are designed for disc brakes (over 100 in 2012 alone). We also run one of the largest bicycle facilities in Seattle (since 1973) and we service disc brakes of all types on a daily basis. We have more history and experience than most to draw from. So, if you’re ready to separate the fact from the fiction, put on your dancin’ shoes and boogie, this is the article for you.

Disco Fever
November, 2012

It was the 1970’s! The BeeGees were ‘Jive Talkin’ all over the music charts, and all the kids wanted to be Vinnie Barbarino (Welcome Back Kotter). I was the resident bicycle kid in my Junior High class, and I rode my Raleigh Rampar all over the area all of the time. So, imagine my surprise when my buddy Barrett showed up at school on a new ride… with all the candy! He was excited to show me his new bike, but class was about to start and we didn’t have time to go back outside and look at it. I got a quick verbal description (including hand motions) painting a vivid picture of this futuristic 10-speed. “It has numbers on the gear shifters to tell you which gear it’s in….like a car!” he said as he motioned the international ‘stick shift’ hand signal that all boys of my generation understood. “But, that’s not all! My bike has disc brakes like a car!” Could it be? I thought. Disc brakes on a bicycle? Wow! How cool is that?

What Barrett had purchased was a Western Flyer 10-speed at the local auto parts store (Western Auto) in our small town. After school, we looked at his bike together, and he did indeed have a bike with all of those features.

As it turned out, in 1975, Shimano actually had just released 2 versions of disc brakes for bicycles. One hydraulic, and one cable-actuated. Here’s the page from the 1975 Shimano catalog showing both types of Shimano bicycle disc brakes.


I know a lot of people, even people in the bicycle industry, think that bicycle disc brakes weren’t even invented until the 1990’s. There are probably older versions of bicycle disc brakes, but from my historical perspective, life began in the 1970’s shortly after the invention of the wheel, so that’s as far back as I’m going to reach in this article.

Back to the story
Now, finding out that he had a Western Flyer eased my jealousy quite a bit (Western Flyers were just Huffies by another name). I proudly rode a Raleigh from a bike shop in a neighboring town (our small town had no bicycle shops).

As the 1970’s disco’ed on, so did the introduction of more and more bicycle disc brakes. Bridgestone, Japan’s largest bicycle company, introduced their new cable actuated disc brake, and Phil Wood came up with a super high-tech disc brake that we here at Rodriguez used on tandem bicycles.

Just a quick note: Some people think that we at Rodriguez bicycles are anti-disc brake. As you can see, we’ve used disc brakes on our bikes since the 1970’s. Most of our customers choose cantilever brakes for touring and tandem bikes because they like them better, not because we don’t offer them with disc brakes.

Good Money Gone Bad!
All that money spent on R&D, but the bicycle disc brake would die in the early 1980’s along with disco. Now, everyone knows that disco burned itself out, but why didn’t the disc brake stick as a bicycle component through the 1980’s?

A lot of people will say “Well, those old disc brakes didn’t work well” but those people would be wrong. They may not work well by comparison to disc brakes of today, but comparing them to rim brakes at that time, they worked great! The industry was behind them, and they spent tons of R&D cash to develop, manufacture and promote them. So, why didn’t they catch on? Eventually, the disc brake was sent to the scrap heap of ideas gone bad.

The ‘Road’ to Failure
In the 1970’s, every bike was a road bike. The fact was, even though disc brakes worked well, they were a lot heavier, and a bit noisy. Add to that the fact that they were harder to adjust, and parts (like pads) were hard to find at your local bike shop. For road bikes, rim brakes worked fine and they were lighter as well as less expensive, and any bike shop or sporting goods shop had pads in stock for them. In short, the benefits of the disc brake were outweighed by sacrifices….at least as far as road bikes and tandems of the 1970’s were concerned. The need for a disc brake really didn’t exist until the introduction of the mountain bike a decade later. Besides, we all needed to save our money for some new dancin’ threads.

The Metal Years
Fast forward to the late 1980’s. Disco is dead, Poison, Motley Crue, and other bad boys (that looked like girls) topped the charts, and a few high-end mountain bike companies are looking for brakes that will work even if the rims are bent and covered in mud! I know! How about disc brakes? Yes, the disc brake is resurrected in the late 1980’s by a few high-end mountain bike companies.

Now, one would expect to see the Bridgestone, Shimano and Phil Wood discs simply re-appear…..right? Well that’s not how we do things in the bike industry. Even though these would’ve been great starting points, we started again, re-inventing the same designs that used to exist. Here’s an example of a 1980’s mountain bike with a set of Suspenders hydraulic/cable disc brakes. There were a few different high-end disc brakes in the late 80’s. Most of them were expensive and difficult to adjust. Some of them worked alright, but some didn’t really cut the mustard. Shimano put out the V-brake (yuck!) somewhere in the early 1990’s, and that really became the brake of choice for most mainstream mountain bike customers. Only the really high-end specialty mountain bike ran disc brakes…

A quick deviation into the 1990’s tandem world
As is custom in the bicycle industry, tandem builders tend to think that something made for a mountain bike will work great on a tandem. Don’t ask me why, but for some reason there are people that see a correlation between a 180 pound guy trying to stop while riding through a muddy stream at 20mph, and a 350 pound tandem team trying to stop while screaming down a mountain pass at over 60mph on asphalt. I fail to see the similarities, but none-the-less, as high-end mountain bikes started using disc brakes in the 1990’s, tandem people requested them on a regular basis. Here at Rodriguez, we used a lot of the Hope disc brakes in the 1990’s on tandems. We only used them as an auxiliary brake, and never as a primary brake. As a matter of fact, I still have 2 of these brakes sitting here beside my desk as I type this. I can tell you many stories of mythical tandem disc brakes (sometimes resulting in very aggravated customers), but suffice it to say that this brake was not at all capable of stopping a tandem, just slowing it down.

The point of this deviation is: Mountain bikes use disc brakes not because they work better, but because they work better on mountain bikes.

..So, as a high-end mountain bike brake, the disc brake limped along through the 1990’s, but never took off as a standard to be used as primary brakes on tandems or touring bikes. Really, that’s not what they were designed for, so that makes sense right?

Home Sweet Home
The disc brake finds its home in the new millennium
Benefits Galore! To the mountain biker, the disc brake is a gift from above. Now the off-road rider could bash his/her rims completely out of true and their brakes don’t rub. They can ride through a muddy stream and their brakes don’t clog up. They don’t have to worry about sand and grime all over their rims getting trapped in their brake pads and damaging their rims. The mountain biker is willing to trade the noise and extra weight for these benefits. Noise doesn’t matter much because off road riding is pretty noisy anyway.

As companies embraced the disc brake, lower cost versions of cable actuated disc brakes developed and the V-brake could finally all but disappear from the industry. Not soon enough I say…the V-brake was the worst of both worlds really, but that’s a whole different article.

Now we see almost all mountain bikes with disc brakes (as we should) and we see the tandem and road bike companies offering them as well. We offer disc brakes on any bike we make. The question often asked of us is “why not use disc brakes on all bikes?” Believe me, it would be easier for us to just use disc brakes on all bikes and tell people the same thing that are reading in the magazines… that disc brakes solve all your problems and are the perfect solution for every type of riding. We do have an obligation to the truth though, and the truth is that there are certain applications where a disc brake is preferable, and certain applications where they are not the best choice.

The theory goes “If they work better on a mountain bike, won’t they work better on a road bike or tandem as well?” Gee…where have I heard that logic before?

One size does NOT fit all
In reality, there are applications that are better suited for disc brakes and there are applications that call for traditional brakes. When you think about it, all bicycle brakes are disc brakes. A disc brake uses a disc brake caliper attached to the frame to grasp a spinning disc (rotor) attached to the hub. A traditional brake is a caliper that uses the rim (also a spinning disc attached to the hub) in place of the rotor. This eliminates the need for the second spinning disc (rotor). I’ve got an anecdote about this theory if you want to take a break from this article. There are benefits and drawbacks to disc or traditional depending on your riding conditions and desires.

It’s Important to Be Careful
Improper assumptions by you, a bicycle manufacturer, or a bike shop can result in serious injury or even death. Want some proof? Here it is.

What should I do?
We’ve come full circle with the disc design, and they look a lot like those 1975 Shimano brakes don’t they? There are very good cable actuated and hydraulic disc brakes. Even so, the benefits and drawbacks remain the same as they did in the 1970’s. Nothing’s changed in terms of road bike uses. The mountain bike brought on a whole new style of riding and with it, many innovations that wouldn’t have come around otherwise. The disc brake is proof of that. The mountain bike brought the disc brake back from the dead, and it’s the perfect application for it.

Controversy where there should be none
I had some reservations about even writing this article, and I’ve put it off for a couple of years. I’ve actually had some people get mad at the fact that we see any downside at all to the road bike disc brake. It seems that over the last few years, magazines and blogs have been buzzing with glowing reviews about road bike disc brakes and one who dares to suggest that there is anything but perfection in the design is labeled a ‘retro-grouch’ and shunned. Well, maybe shunned is too strong of a word, but there have been occasions when I’ve had discussions with folks who seem to get angry at the fact that most of our road bike customers prefer a rim brake.
Here’s a quick story
about one such occasion.

As it turns out, paper doesn’t refuse ink, keyboards don’t refuse fingers, and the internet doesn’t refuse opinions of those who have vested interets. Its up to those who have decades of experience building and servicing bicycles to bring the facts to the surface (facts are stubborn things).

I decided to go ahead and write the article though, and I hope I’ve done so in such a way as to not offend the true believers. Being the kind of shop we are, we won’t try to push you into one style of brake or another. Instead, we’ll just put together a list of the benefits and compromises attached to each type of brake and you can decide yourself which brake suits your style of riding and budget. Without further ado, ladies and gentlemen: Behold…The List!

The Upside of disc brakes:
Avid BB7 Disc Brake

  • Work the same if your rim is straight or if it’s bent
  • Shops with very young mechanics know how to work on disc brakes (not so much with rim brakes)
  • Work better if you’re riding through a stream
  • People will say “Cool! Disc brakes!”

The Downside of disc brakes:

  • Disc brakes can be noisy. Not a problem off road, but on a quiet road ride the constant scraping sound drives me nuts.
  • The bike equipped with disc brakes will weigh 1 ~ 2.25 pounds more than rim brake version of the same bike
  • Hard to find brake pads or rotors if you’re touring in remote areas (make sure to carry spare pads and rotors)
  • Hard to tell what brake pad wear is
  • Can suffer from ‘hard to diagnose’ inconsistent performance
  • If your bike is a travel-bike, the disc brakes make packing and un-packing much more difficult

The Upside of rim brakes:

Campagnolo Chorus caliper brake

  • Quiet
  • Lighter weight frame, fork and wheels can be used (save up to 2.25 pounds)
  • Lower cost. ($200 ~ $500 less)
  • Longer pad wear and lots of pad options available
  • Replacement pads are cheap, available everywhere, and last longer than disc pads
  • Pads are relatively easy to replace

The Downside of rim brakes

  • Younger, inexperienced mechanics may get ‘creative’ while adjusting your brakes.
  • Rub the wheel if you break a spoke or bend your rim
  • Poorly maintained, can wear out your rim prematurely
  • Don’t work if you’re riding through a stream
  • People will say “Why didn’t you get disc brakes?”

Thanks for reading,
– Dan

Russet Makeshift ready to Fly!

Another Rohloff equipped Rodriguez went out the door this week! Red-brown with our travel package, this bike is ready for some serious touring.

At Rodriguez, we know Rohloff bikes. We know them so well because we’re the biggest Rohloff manufacturer in the USA!

You can also find out more about our line of Rohloff equipped bikes at our Makeshift catalog page.

Silver, Sporty and Stainless

Another Rohloff bike that went out the door last week. It’s completely stainless, with a painted front triangle to give it a classic 70’s feel.

Quick Highlights:

  • Rohloff Speedhub
  • Long Reach Brakes for fenders and wide tires
  • S&S Couplers for travelling!
  • Shiny!

All of the specs for this bike can be found at the Catalog page for our Makeshift line of bicycles.

Yellow and Stainless Rodriguez side shot

Yellow and Stainless RodriguezYellow and Stainless Rodriguez

Silver Rohloff on a Rodriguez

Silver Rohloff Speedhub on a Stainless Steel Rodriguez

Yellow Rodriguez, silver S and S coupler

fenders and wide tires on Rodriguez

Rodriguez Rear TriangleStainless Rohloff cable routing

Eccentric Bottom Bracket of the Rodriguez frame

Silver Rohloff on Rodriguez Closeup