A Trip to MTB Tandems & Tweaking the Ventana…

As noted in my post from last weekend, after a triumphant return to off-road riding with Miss Debbie, our 2002 Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas (ECdM) definitely needed a few adjustments following its 4-year hiatus.

#1 on the list was raising and pulling back the handlebars.  Twelve years ago when Alex built-up our 2002 ECdM — which, coincidentally, was the first full-up tandem to be sold by Alex and MTBTandems.com — I was apparently 12-years younger and riding with a much more aggressive posture.  The ‘Superdust’ 2002 Ventana ECdM was a replacement / upgrade from our 1997/00 ‘High Zoot Translucent Red’ ECdM which had replaced our ‘Sunrise Orange’ 1998 Cannondale MT3000.  As you can see in the photos below, the captain’s handlebars are well below he saddle on all three bikes: I guess there was a time when that worked well for me.  However, on last Sunday’s outing I was definitely feeling way too stretched out, bent over and had too much weight on my hands.


2002 Ventana, with Stratos S5 fork, SRAM X0 gearing, daVinci tandem crankset ,Chris King/Aeroheat AT wheelset and Hope Enduro hydraulic discs.  When our friend Alex Nutt decided to get into the off-road tandem business we decided to take the plunge and do a full bike upgrade to support him with his first tandem sale & build. We had Sherwood Gibson at Ventana replicate the geometry of our ’97 frame as the current smaller frame geometry had changed to something that I didn’t find aesthetically all that pleasing.  Sherwood and I were on the phone talking frame geometry while he was building the frame, that’s how custom this bike was.  In fact, Sherwood even signed the frame for me, just to give it that really custom touch.


1997 Ventana frame built up in 2000 with Stratos FR4 fork, Shimano XT, daVinci crankset, Hope BULB / Aeroheat AT wheelset & Hope 04DH hydraulic discs.  I found the frame for sale for $1000 on some obscure bulletin board during Christmas of 1999. It had been bought at a UPS lost freight sale by a pawn shop in South Dakota.  It was shipped to a buyer and lost in route by UPS and was in cosmetically rough condition.  A lot of polishing, new decals and a new rear disc compatible swing arm made it good as new and built up in May of ’00.  I wanted to update the wheels, gearing and brakes and decided to do a complete bike upgrade when our friend Alex decided to enter the off-road tandem business.  This was sold to a couple in Sacramento, California in April 2002; however, UPS lost the wheels and fork en route.  Me thinks this frame was cursed.


1998 Cannondale MT3000 with CODA HeadShok Moto FR fork, SACH Gripshift, Sugino crankset, Coda-Hugi / Sun Rhinolite wheelset and Shimano XT V-brakes.  This one was acquired lightly used from a gentleman in Pennsylvania in Dec. ’98.  I stumbled over a Ventana frame that was a deal just too good to pass up and this bike was sold to a couple in New Hampshire in July ’00.  To be completely honest, I really wish we’d have kept this tandem. It was a ripper on cross country trails. Very easy to ride and handle with it’s low center of gravity vs. the very high ground clearance Ventanas which can be a handful.

Therefore, the first order of business was to figure out what stem and riser-bar combination would deliver a better riding position.  Alex had a Thomson stem that was 10mm shorter than the one I had on our Ventana and a set of FSA XC280 40mm mid-rise bars that we used to pull back and raise up my riding position.  The plan is to ride it with the FSA XC280 set-up on a temporary basis to see if that will work or if I still need a more upright solution.  Just testing it in the parking lot outside of MTBTandems.com’s shop in Canton, Georgia, it seemed to be a lot better.


DSCN0483The next order of business was eliminating the noise and chatter from the brake system: chattering brakes don’t work well and the squeal is just… well, not what you want every time you touch your brakes.  As you can see in the photos above, to the right and below, we ended up just eliminating the entire brake system.  Yup, those way-cool, super-gonzo, bomb-proof 4-piston hydraulic Hope Enduro front & rear brakes are now in a box along with the also very cool Easton C2 composite handlebar that was replaced by the aluminum riser bar.   While the Magura MT7 and MT6 hydraulic brakes were quite tempting, for our immediate needs my gut told me the mechanical Avid BB7’s with the Single Digit 7 levers would more than adequate and… well, simple, quiet and more affordable. Out back, in addition to switching over to the BB7 mechanical (left), we also upped the rotor from 185mm to 203mm which completed the scorched-Earth approach to riding the Ventana of the Hope brake system. As to why there was a 185mm on the rear to begin with, I’m pretty sure 185mm worked out to be the largest size caliper Hope (right) made for a rear installation back in 2002.

DSCN0485 DSCN0047I also rotated the eccentric 180° to lower the crank axle a half inch which, in turn, allowed me to drop my saddle height another half inch: yet another way of changing that bar height to saddle height differential on a tandem.

DSCN0487 DSCN0488

To add more steering trail and firm up the steering I raised the triple clamps back to the top of the stanchions which relaxed the head tube angle and increased the steering trail.  Yes Alex, you were right… I’d originally focused on the effective fork rake. Alex correctly pointed out what was happening to the head tube angle as the fork stanchions move up or down in the clamps.


If the weather gods are nice and hold off on the rain, Miss Debbie has said we’ll hit the trails this morning after 10am when the bow hunters are done.  It will be interesting to see how all of these changes have worked out.  Keeping my fingers crossed that we have another good day on the trail.



About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
This entry was posted in Off-Road Tandems, Pimpin' for our Friends, Tandem Folks, Technology & Equip.. Bookmark the permalink.

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