Well, I finally had an opportunity to see one of Santana’s Team Scandium tandems with the optional Exo-Grid down and boob tube + carbon seat stays. In fact, it was purportedly the very same tandem that appears on Santana Tandems’ home page, recently acquired as a shop demo by long-time friends Jack & Susan Goertz of Tandems Limited in Birmingham, Alabama.
Jack & Susan had it with them at the Alabama Tandem Weekend on April 9 – 11 in Eufaula, Alabama and after giving it a long look after Friday afternoon’s ride we had hoped to take it out for a spin after Saturday’s ride; alas, I think we were all pretty ‘toasty’ after Saturday’s shake & bake ride and shelved the test ride idea.
However, while a test ride report may have to wait until the Georgia Tandem Rally in mid-may (assuming they don’t sell it by then), I can at least share my observations based on a quick walk-around of a $9,295.00 ’10 Team Scandium.
1 – There’s no doubt this frame was constructed using Easton’s Scandium tubing, as an Easton imprint was clearly visible through the translucent turquoise top coat on the internal tube, just ahead of the weld joint at the seat tube.
2 – The Vyatek ExoGrid down (and boob) tube are part of a $2,000 option for Santana’s ‘Team” models, e.g., Team Niobium, Scandium & Titanium. From an aesthetics standpoint, I was immediately reminded of argyle socks and sweaters when looking at the boob tube’s expanded titanium mesh-like exo-skin with its underlying, inner-structure carbon core. The downtube substituted the laser-cut “SANTANA” name for the expanded mesh; more on that in a minute. We didn’t get a chance to ride the bike, but without having another non-Exo-Grid Team Scandium to compare it to, I clearly can’t comment on what the exotic down and boom tube do beyond shaving a few grams from the frame and giving it that somewhat distinctive ‘argyle’ look.
3 – The $2,000 Exo-Grid Option also includes a pair of carbon seat stays. The stays are attached to a short Scandium mono-stay at the top of the stoker’s seat tube and to the frame’s aluminum rear drop-outs using a bonded & bolted interface. The chain stays appear to be standard Santana fare. The combination of the Exo-Grid down & boob tubes, the carbon stays, and the carbon fork that comes standard on the Sovereign & Team models makes for a somewhat ‘racier-looking’ package vs. the standard Scandium frame and presumably provides both some degree of vibration dampening and gram reduction.
4 – The welds on this frame were very nice. In fact, I’d even go as far to say they were excellent. While they were still the larger TIG pools that are typical for aluminum frames, the pools at all of the weld joints were very uniform and terminated without any gaps. This was a significant improvement over some of the ‘bubble-gum’ welds I’ve seen on other aluminum Santana frames, including one or two of their top-shelf Beyond tandems a few years back.
5 – This is really a nit that perhaps 99 out of a 100 people who look at a Santana might notice, but since I’m one of those 1/100 folks…. here goes. Why does Santana use a different typeface for the model name decal that goes on the top tube vs what it uses on the head tube badge and downtubes? It’s probably always been that way, but it really jumped out at me when looking at this bike. You see, Santana went to the trouble of having its name cut into the Exo-Grid down tube such that ‘SANTANA’ appears as a titanium block-style negative image sitting on the underlying carbon core. With the typical black on white decal letting removed, the shape of the ‘S’ and ‘T’ jump-out, particularly that little notch in the top of the ‘T’. However, instead of using the same typeface with the distinctive ‘S’ and ‘T’, the “Team Scandium” model name decal uses a different block style typeface. Weird, but probably not unique to Santana either.
a – The Team bikes use Santana’s house-branded V-Max carbon fork with bosses for cantilever brakes. The fork on the Team Scandium we looked at was a nice piece of hardware with a clear coat, although I’m not quite sure who makes it but it’s a dead-ringer for a Martec CCF02, which is very similar to QBP’s house-brand, Winwood Muddy-Cross (Martec CCF03?), less the disc mounts and with a 1.25″ steerer. Martec is one of Santana’s long-time suppliers and they offer a full line of carbon parts for bikes that are marketed by many different companies, to include QPB’s Winwood brand and Weyless. However, I can’t opine as to if Martec makes Santana’s forks, but it sure looks familiar. Anyway, like I said, it’s a nice and robust-looking fork. Customers can also elect to go with the Reynolds Ouzo Pro Tandem, caliper-compatible carbon fork as an option, noting Santana reports they still have a deep supply of the Ouzo Pro tandem forks. I had to confirm this was the case as it was my understanding Reynolds had exited the carbon fork business a while back.
b/c – I probably need to get out more often or spend more time reading the main stream industry rags. Apparaently, a year or so ago Shimano modified the brake lever pull on its Ultegra (6700) and DuraAce (7900) model STI levers with what they call “Super SLR”. The Super SLR’s increase brake lever purchase has eliminated the need for the often maligned “Travel Agent” V-brake adapters. While not a fan of the V-brakes with adapters, they worked just fine if they were installed correctly and attended to on at least an annual basis as part of a tandem owner’s preventative maintenance regime. With the Super SLR, I’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything to suggest V-brakes aren’t a good choice beyond personal preference for the look or feel of calipers which, it could be argued, would come at the expense of accepting a little less braking power vs. the linear pull brakes. It’s worth noting Santana considers the higher mechanical advantage and resulting clamping force of linear-pull cantilever (aka, V-) brakes to be far superior to other cantilever or dual-pivot caliper brakes. Moreover, the linear-pull style cantilever brakes allow for much larger tires and the installation of mud guards.
d – A dead-ringer for the Winwood Road Scholar, Santana’s house-branded carbon drop bars look pretty nice. Again, like the Winwood it’s a wing-type bar that incorporates some nice ergonomic features such as thumb and finger detents. I’m still pretty partial to our E3 Curve bars, but the Winwood / Santana Road Scholar would be a nice replacement if we needed one as I suspect the E3’s are no longer available.
e – Hey,hey… ControlTech is back!! ControlTech’s very nice stoker stems had gone the way of the Dodo Bird a while back so it was really nice to see one on this tandem and to hear they were back in the stoker stem business. The fit and finish of the ‘new’ stoker stem was even better than I recalled seeing on their original models.
f – As mentioned earlier, Martec is one of Santana’s suppliers and provides the Big-S with their Octalink-compatible carbon cranks. Now, if you check out Santana’s on-line bike catalog you’ll find a note that says to contact Santana for information concerning the Gates Carbon-Drive, sync-belt and timing pulleys. I did a quick follow-up and, according to long-time Santana Director of Sales Steve Lesse, they have working samples of Santana-compatible, Gates Carbon-Drives in hand and are waiting for the first production lot to be delivered for sale.
g – I jokingly call it the ‘personal pan pizza’, but from all accounts Santana’s 10” rotor is working pretty well. I only looks large if your point of reference is the smaller and more common 203mm rotor as spec’d for use on tandems by Avid and other disc brake producers.
h – Although Santana spec’s its own version of the WinZip disc caliper for its tandems, this particular example was fitted with an Avid BB7 Road disc caliper. In talking with several of the folks at the Alabama Tandem Weekend who have disc-equipped tandems and who have used both the Avid and WinZip, the Avid still remains the easiest to set-up and adjust with no real detectable difference in performance. Ultimately, it good to have alternatives so it is reassuring to know that the Avid and WinZip are essentially interchangeable on Santana’s tandems.
i – Another standard part of the Santana’s Team package are the Shimano / Santana Sweet 16 wheels. I think I’ll reserve my editorial on having a set of ‘racing wheels’ as a team’s only wheelset and/or their use as every day wheels for another blog entry. My position remains unchanged from my original observations made after doing my own independent testing during the first year that we owned our Calfee. However, and in this regard it was noted that the wheels on this particular tandem were found to be in need of re-tensioning… which is normal for new Sweet 16’s once they’ve been used for a few hundred miles. As noted in the downloadable Sweet 16 owner’s care & feeding guide:
1). Per Shimano’s original instructions (supplied with every set of wheels), Sweet-16 tandem wheels require an initial retensioning after 1000km—or earlier if the wheel makes noise. While many owners or their mechanics have guessed that the nipples somehow loosened, the drop in tension is instead the normal-and-expected result of the seating of the spokes, and rims. Until the revised Sweet-16 wheels were upgraded with lighter rims (wheels built after August 2005), many customers skipped this important service. With the current lighter rims this required initial service will be harder to ignore.
Well, there you have it. If you ever saw me looking at your tandem and wondered what I was looking at, the answer is usually ‘everything’. Despite all of the years that have passed and tandems that I’ve looked at, each one I encounter still captures my attention as I look to see what, if any, little changes owners and manufacturers have made to their tandems and — if I’m really intrigued — to find out why.