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Vintage quality vs new cheap--which is really better?

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Vintage quality vs new cheap--which is really better?

Old 05-06-19, 04:25 PM
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quemazon
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Vintage quality vs new cheap--which is really better?

I'm looking at a stock '84 Santana Sovereign vs a new aluminum walmart-grade road tandem. They are basically the same price--$500. I feel like the initial advice is always to avoid the walmart crap and get a quality bike, even if it's older. But, how far back does that advice extend?

There is a lot of quality that's hand-crafted into the Santana, for sure. But I believe the cheap Giordano Viaggio (look it up on amazon) would have the following advantages:
- lighter
- stiffer
- sti indexed shifters (vs bar end shifters)
- 7 speed cassette vs 5 speed freewheel
- better braking (after minor upgrade)
- alloy rims (vs steel)
- 700c wheels (vs 27")
- Looks new
- UPGRADEABLE (will fit most modern gearing, 700c tires, hub spacing, etc)
- free shipping to my house

The Santana would seem to have the following benefits:
- sexier (at least to those in the know)
- perhaps better bearings and races throughout (not sure this is true)
- eccentric hub for better-integrated drivetrain
- maybe ride quality? smooth but flexy steel vs stiff but harsh aluminum.

I realize there are much better options in other used markets, but assuming for now that these are the only tandems available, which is the better option? (also assume that I'm capable enough to address minor mechanical issues and adjustments on either one.)
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Old 05-06-19, 07:32 PM
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L134
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Personally, I’d go Santana. I also question some of your pros and cons. I don’t think a stock Sovereign would have steel rims and likely has high quality Phil Wood hubs and high quality bottom brackets. I also think it is just as upgradeable and probably more worth doing so as you are starting with a high end platform instead of a low end. I think it would have 140mm spacing in the rear and Tandems East sells 140mm cassette hubs so upgrade your drive train to your heart’s content. On a new bike costing $500 virtually everything on it is going to be low end. Why do you assume better braking? As for weight and stiffness, even if your assumptions are correct, if you are looking at a new $500 bike (particularly a tandem), I would think those are pretty much irrelevant factors. I did fully loaded touring through Jasper, Banff, and Glacier NP’s on an 82 Sovereign and it was a very capable, stiff enough bike. Finally, unless totally abused, quality old will always look better than cheapo new, IMO. I might add that at $500 the Santana should be in very good riding condition. If not, it is probably over-priced. I wouldn’t pay more unless the bike is mint.
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Old 05-06-19, 08:03 PM
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I think the Santana would be capable and look classy. But, it would be much more difficult to repair or upgrade (things do eventually wear-out). The "Giordano" would likely win-out in some major ride characteristics (weight, stiffness, shifting). Brakes would likely be a wash.


There is a crossover point where an older bike is too old, and the tech outdated such that it just isn't as good as a similarly priced low-tier new bike. I think this case is close to that crossover.
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Old 05-06-19, 08:08 PM
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Santana, no question. Don't bother with the mail order junk. The Santana has "good bones" and can be serviced with all the standard tools and parts of its day. Any of the reputable makers: : KHS, Burley, Cannondale, Trek even an old Schwinn Paramount is worth more of your time.
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Old 05-06-19, 09:24 PM
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How clean and well cared for is the Santana? How comfortable are you in maintaining and upgrading bicycles?

If you and your wife continue to enjoy tandeming, understand that you will be spending additional money on whichever bike you choose. It may be easier in some ways to work on upgrading a new, clean bike. But no matter how much you do to or spend on the Giordano, it will still be a Giordano. The Santana might take more work or money, but likely has more ultimate potential.
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Old 05-07-19, 06:20 AM
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Originally Posted by tkramer View Post
Santana, no question.
Not to bash Walmart, but their business model is lowest price and they do what it takes to be the cheapest, for some things that's ok, it's a personal choice. Keep in mind that the entry price point for a new tandem with quality components is around $2000.

Last edited by DCwom; 05-07-19 at 06:35 AM.
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Old 05-07-19, 08:54 AM
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The bike is actually an Amazon offering and from most accounts has a decent aluminum frame. It isn't bottom of the barrel walmart stuff.

I know there is a lot of well-deserved good will for Santana and other premium makers. But the really dated models have a very tenuous upgrade path. So if you are planning to upgrade the components, the Giordano is probably a better choice. And it's probably a better ride in many aspects. Some people still like old bar-end shifters and 5-speed setups--but most don't.

At any rate, I just picked up a Burley Rivazza with disc brakes, carbon fork, ultegra stuff, rolf hubs, 35 lbs etc. for $750, so I'm set. (got lucky!) But I think a lot of the older Santanas are way over-priced.
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Old 05-07-19, 10:07 AM
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Read through the posts to say that a mid 90's Burley would smash either of the two contestants listed, are plentiful on Craisglist, and the Samba's, in particular, have asking prices around $500+. Anyone who thinks 27" wheels and 5 speed freewheels are viable in 2019 is just channeling obsolete group-think. The Giordano (IMO) is the hands down winner in a head to head with a 1984 Santana.
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Old 05-08-19, 09:29 AM
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I think of myself as the lost voice of the cheap tandem, but itís pretty clearly the Santana here. The comments about assuming the Santana has better components is right, but I think insufficient emphasis has been placed on the eccentric bottom bracket.

There are a couple bikes here that have been upgraded from tensioners, but it was non-trivial and they all needed substantial upgrades elsewhere.

The only reason to get a cheap tandem is because a good base is unavailable in your market on your time frame and/or you never plan on upgrading to what Rivendell would refer to as a racing spec.

You have the opportunity to get a solid base for the same
price as a cheap bike. Buy the Santana.
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Old 05-08-19, 01:24 PM
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Originally Posted by bajajoaquin View Post
The only reason to get a cheap tandem is because a good base is unavailable in your market on your time frame and/or you never plan on upgrading to what Rivendell would refer to as a racing spec.
Perhaps. But I would add that the only reason to get and pre-'90 tandem is because you'll be happy riding it as-is (with a tune-up) and don't plan to upgrade. (or because you just want an old santana and don't mind the cost and effort of updating it. Labor of love.)

Last edited by quemazon; 05-08-19 at 01:28 PM.
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Old 05-08-19, 03:40 PM
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I think they're both ok. They're both limited about the same amount in different ways.
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Old 05-09-19, 04:37 AM
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We started with a cheap kent or pacific (can't remember which). Neither of us rode on our own. We didn't realize how bad it was. Then we bought a viaggio. For double the price it was a significant improvement. Then we bought a used tandem for $1k. Again way better. Biggest thing was the viaggio sizing didn't work for us. We also bought a $300 used burley for our second home and it was way better than the $500 viaggio.

Are there going to be some older santana's I wouldn't want yes, but generally I think for the price a used bike is better than buying the viaggio, but we didn't know any better and still enjoyed it.
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Old 05-11-19, 02:27 PM
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Originally Posted by quemazon View Post
The bike is actually an Amazon offering and from most accounts has a decent aluminum frame. It isn't bottom of the barrel walmart stuff.

I know there is a lot of well-deserved good will for Santana and other premium makers. But the really dated models have a very tenuous upgrade path. So if you are planning to upgrade the components, the Giordano is probably a better choice. And it's probably a better ride in many aspects. Some people still like old bar-end shifters and 5-speed setups--but most don't.

At any rate, I just picked up a Burley Rivazza with disc brakes, carbon fork, ultegra stuff, rolf hubs, 35 lbs etc. for $750, so I'm set. (got lucky!) But I think a lot of the older Santanas are way over-priced.

Well there you are then! That's a really great deal. You took the best course of action.
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