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Couplers or no couplers

Old 04-05-17, 10:48 PM
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pdlpsher
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Couplers or no couplers

Hi All,

We are buying a new tandem (our third) and we have to decide whether to upgrade it to include the couplers. We have never traveled with a tandem. If we don't get the couplers the money we saved could be used for paying the excess baggage fees. Upon checking the airline baggage policies I realized that even a coupled tandem might not always avoid the excess baggage fee. Most airlines will not allow regular checked baggage to be heavier than 50lbs or exceed a linear dimension of 62 inches. A Santana Safecase is 74 linear inches. So my question to the forum members is if it's worth the extra expense of couplers when you still have to pay the excess baggage fees. It seems to me that while one might get away with the airline's linear inch restriction, it would be virtually impossible to stay under the 50lbs limit unless you have a really light coupled tandem. I can't find the weight of a Santana Safecase but I highly doubt it's under 20lbs including the high-density foam. Lastly, it seems that airlines would only charge one fee for oversize/overweight as opposed to two fees, one for overweight and one for oversize. At this point I'm leaning towards not getting the couplers and use the Santana large cardboard box to fly the tandem. Your advice and comments are much appreciated.
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Old 04-05-17, 11:13 PM
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We bought our second tandem in 2005 custom made for us by Co-Motion with S&S couplers. Our Mocha fits into the 2 soft cases and we fly somewhere to tour at least once a year. We've never been hit with excess fees in all that time. We generally keep the weight per bag to under 23kg and even though the bags are sometimes classed as oversize it's never caused a problem.
The location of the joins on the Co-Motion is much better in my opinion than where Santana places them. I really don't see the point of installing couplers and still needing to use and oversized bag.
Our next tandem will have couplers too. Just need to decide between a Seven or perhaps a filament. I was very keen on a Paketa but i'm not to keen on the wait for one
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Old 04-06-17, 01:38 AM
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pdlpsher, we purchased a coupled Santana Beyond (size med) in late 2007. It was delivered to LBS in the safecase which was in a cardboard shipping container. The case is still in the same shipping container and the bike has never been back in it. The airlines were just starting to tighten up the restrictions. We weighed and measured it back then (I thought the linear limit was 70") as it seemed it was 2 inches over and we could make the weight by taking off the wheels and packing them separate. We didn't think we could pack anything but the bike in the case. [note, we took the wheels off the case, the bike wheels would fit inside]

We didn't think air travel sounded like much fun and bought an RV instead. Bike fits in storage bay without using couplers.

We live in So. California, if you are interested in seeing the case. It proved to be a poor investment. We have used the couplers when camping (prior to current RV), so we could store the bike inside the back seat of the truck. They were a poor investment for us too. Like the bike, but rarely ride it anymore, in favor of something with more robust wheels. We had very poor experience with the santana rear wheels.

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Old 04-06-17, 02:02 AM
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If you intend to travel with the tandem even if using a car, not just flying, couplers are useful for partial assembly.

We have never paid for oversized or overweight S&S case since our tandem packs into 2 10x26x26 cases. I have well calibrated arm so I can load each case to be 22-23Kg without a scale but you may want to bring a portable scale. We've done 20+ trips to/from Europe without any hassles.

Santana's oversized case in this age of fees and more fees may not work very well with the counter agent. Curb side check-in is an relic only available in the USA as far as I know. All other

Packing a steel tandem with racks and fenders and all those bits into a single case will exceed the weight limit. Use 2 cases.

Is it worth it? How much is it worth it when the hotel prebook a oversized taxi for you at 5AM for a 7AM flight and you find out a normal sized taxi shows up? For us, it's worth every penny of the cost of the 5 couplers + 2 26x26x10 hard cases (~$1500-$1700).
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Old 04-06-17, 07:23 AM
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We traveled with our old coupled tandem in a soft-side case - 26" x 26" x 10". This case is under the oversized limit. We packed the frame & wheels in this case & the rest of the stuff in another smaller suitcase. Both were under the 50# limit. Travelling with a coupled tandem is possible but not easy. We once flew with an uncoupled tandem and it was a real pain. The logistics of getting a box that big through all modes of transportation is really hard (rental cars, shuttles, buses, etc.). If you plan to fly with your tandem, I would highly recommend couplers.
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Old 04-06-17, 07:29 AM
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Thanks for the replies everyone. I hadn't thought of having two S&S cases and the hassles that a large full-size tandem box would present once it's on the ground. In summary I believe there's pros and cons to each system....

Safecase vs. two S&S couplers. There would be baggage fees associated with a Safecase but it seems a Safecase offers better bike protection with the use of shaped foam. No fees on the two S&S cases provided they are less than 10" thick. To my knowledge there's no room in either for a rack.

Safecase vs. full-sized tandem box and no couplers. Same cost to fly either but the full-size tandem box is a nightmare once it's on the ground. It seems that a full-sized tandem box offers very good bike protection. So the bike will get there just fine under either option.

Two S&S cases vs. full-sized tandem box. The coupler option would cost almost $3,000 more once taxes are added. The same for the Safecase. A carboard tandem box is free...it comes with one on my new tandem. I may get several uses out of it by strapping it down securely. There's room inside the tandem box for a rack, helmets, shoes, etc.

I do like the idea of couplers however $3,000 is a lot of money and it will take many trips to recoup the investment. If the cost is more reasonable like $1,500 then it would be a no-brainer.

It seems to me that many tandems are flown not having couplers so I do think it's a viable alternative to having couplers, provided that the trip has ground support to handle a large tandem box. It's likely that I won't do any 'credit card' type touring on my own in the foreseeable future.

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Old 04-06-17, 07:50 AM
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We've travelled internationally with an uncoupled tandem. There are some hassles, such as getting it in rental cars and taxis, where you store the full sized case etc.

However, its manageable, and there are some smaller hassles with S&S, such as assembly, disassembly, packing. Admittedly not a huge deal, but some work. ( I have a single with S&S couplers.)

IMHO, if you're going to travel with the tandem a lot, S&S makes sense.

If its a once a year thing its going to be difficult to ever make the money back.

Also I hated the idea of paying a ton of money for a very light tandem, and then paying more to add 2 pounds of weight to it.
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Old 04-06-17, 07:53 AM
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The option we use more recently is shipping the tandem to our hotel. It's often as cheap as airline fees. They pick the bike up at your house or office, and its at your hotel when you arrive. About the lowest hassle option. You can do that around 10 times (without even considering the time value of money) before you covered the cost of S&S at $3000. And that assumes no fees for your S&S bike. Pay even a regular bag fee for the S&S cases, and the number of trips to recover your cost is even higher.
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Old 04-06-17, 10:19 AM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
The option we use more recently is shipping the tandem to our hotel. It's often as cheap as airline fees. They pick the bike up at your house or office, and its at your hotel when you arrive. About the lowest hassle option. You can do that around 10 times (without even considering the time value of money) before you covered the cost of S&S at $3000. And that assumes no fees for your S&S bike. Pay even a regular bag fee for the S&S cases, and the number of trips to recover your cost is even higher.
This may be the best option. Keeping track of your bike while traveling and possibly having to deal with the disassembly / assembly issues, being able to drop your assembled bike off with a shipper before you start your trip and having it waiting for you at your destination hotel has a lot of appeal. I suppose on the return trip you could just arrange for a shipper to pick it up at your hotel.
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Old 04-06-17, 10:24 AM
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^ We've had no problem getting the bike picked up at our departing hotel, even the day after we've left. A tip for the front desk people makes it run smooth.


Biggest downside with the shipping approach is you're typically without the bike for 3-5 days on each side, but if you have other bikes, that's typically not a major concern.
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Old 04-06-17, 10:56 AM
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We have the two hard sided 26X26X10 cases for our coupled Santana. We have never paid excess baggage fees. We can get almost all of our cycling stuff (clothing, helmets, shoes, tools, bike accessories) in the two cases with bike and stay within the 50# limit for each. We've rented a car on some of our trips and have been able to go with the smaller, cheaper models instead a minivan or equivalent at much more $$. We've also used train travel with little hassle. Has it all justified the extra cost of S&S? Probably not, but the fewer hassles and peace of mind when traveling is worth something.

I also partially break it down into two parts and can fit it inside the car for driving trips. It keeps the bike cleaner and more secure while driving. I can re-assemble very quickly.
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Old 04-06-17, 01:21 PM
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This brings up another curiosity for me: I just sold a single road bike on eBay. I'm shipping it from Denver to Los Angeles. The box is 33 pounds and 58" x 31" x 9". The best deal I could find was FedEx at $170. How can anyone (distributors, etc.) afford to ship a bike? Is there some secret way that I don't know about?
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Old 04-06-17, 02:03 PM
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Originally Posted by oldacura View Post
This brings up another curiosity for me: I just sold a single road bike on eBay. I'm shipping it from Denver to Los Angeles. The box is 33 pounds and 58" x 31" x 9". The best deal I could find was FedEx at $170. How can anyone (distributors, etc.) afford to ship a bike? Is there some secret way that I don't know about?
I would imagine most distributors ship LTL (less than truckload) and are getting preferred pricing because they're typically shipping multiple bikes, and are buying in volume.
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Old 04-06-17, 02:06 PM
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Originally Posted by merlinextraligh View Post
I would imagine most distributors ship LTL (less than truckload) and are getting preferred pricing because they're typically shipping multiple bikes, and are buying in volume.
But if it costs $170 to ship a single bike 1000 miles within the US, what does it cost to ship a tandem from the US to Europe & back?
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Old 04-06-17, 02:16 PM
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We've only shipped as far as Hawaii ( Europe we checked it)IIRC it was about $300
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Old 04-06-17, 02:19 PM
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These guys appear to be cheaper than going to FedEx directly: https://www.shipbikes.com/#
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Old 04-06-17, 02:47 PM
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Import tariffs

Last September we rode our old co-motion coupled tandem in Italy. A great week of riding from Hotel Dory in Riccione. Since we decided to see Rome and Florence first without the bike, we shipped it ahead using Bike Flights. Turned out not to be the way to do it. Because it was shipped separately (in two cases) Italy charged us import duties or tariffs in both directions which were much more than the shipping costs. Our friends who were going straight to Riccione from U.S. had no problem taking bike (also a coupled tandem in 2 cases) with them on plane and direct to Hotel Dory. We ended up paying about $1900 to get the bike there and back--probably just about it's value. It was a great trip anyway, but our method of shipping the bike sure added to the costs. Bike Flights had helped us prepare documents showing that bike was for our personal use and not for re-sale but it didn't do any good. We had to fork over the cash to the Fed Ex guy in Italy or we wouldn't have got our bike to ride.
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Old 04-06-17, 03:58 PM
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If you will be heading to Europe multiple times (anticpate 6+) and ever want to use the high speed trains in France or Italy, then S&S is a must.

While it isn't exactly convenient or a breeze hauling two fully loaded S&S cases + other suitcases up and down stairs and through seemingly endless corridors and tunnels, it is doable albeit somewhat exhausting.

By European standards the S&S cases are "huge" and so we have had a few incidences where a small taxi could not fit those cases, plus two fullsized roller suitcases, plus the two of us. So on shorter trips we have downsized our clothing and gear needs into just the S&S cases plus a couple wheel aboards. Caveat on this is that the Euro air standards for carry-on luggage is now extremely small, much more so than flying on American carriers. You may have no trouble boarding in the US, but you may be hauled aside and forced to check your large "American" carry-on even if flying back on the same airline.

On the other hand, we have never been kicked off or not allowed to use high speed rail, even when our cases + suitcases virtually blocked 90% of the aisle in a train car - first or second class.

We have done the rental car thing in France to get from A to B at the start of our trip and again at the end, but actually prefer going via rail and taxi for the mental relaxation and higher sense of adventure. It provides an opportunity to use that other part of the brain

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Old 04-06-17, 05:07 PM
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We've done non-coupled with a Bike Pro tandem case on domestic airlines. I would do it again - but only in USA and to a destination where storing the case somewhere is viable, like a tour company or relative. It's only been on that one trip since we got a coupled Co-motion as a dedicated travel bike.

Already, the Co-motion has been on a domestic air trip and an Amtrak trip since we bought it in November 2016. Assembly-disassembly is more of a pain than uncoupled, but one should set aside plenty of time for that activity, regardless.

We once had a coupled Santana with that huge single case (packed weight ~75 lbs.). We shipped that up to Napa/Sonoma to be assembled by a tour organizer and that went okay. The steel-aluminum coupler junction on the frame began to corrode in less than year so we ditched that bike for a non-coupled copy which relegated us to road trips for a while.

If you do most of your trips self planned and organized, then coupled is the way to go. If you do mostly organized trips (Backroads, Sojourn, Trek, etc.) then you can get away with non-coupled bike much easier since you can rely on the services of the company you hire to handle the extra logistics.
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Old 04-06-17, 09:12 PM
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We have a non-coupled tandem (Santana Sovereign currently up for sale) and we've had more problems on trains than planes when we've been travelling. There have been a few times when we were told no room it's to big and we've had to beg, grovel to get it on at the last possible minute. 2x26x26x10 cases are so much easier
Here's what we wrote after our first big trip with out then new Mocha Co-Motion Mocha Co-Pilot Tandem
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Old 04-07-17, 04:36 AM
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For French Regional trains (aka the milk run), we don't travel at peak period, buy ticket with bike and just find some place to lean the tandem in the carriage marked for bicycle. Sometimes there is more than one carriage which can handle the bike. Just be ready to move the tandem if it is blocking bikes that are already hanging there or a passage way.

The newest local trains (made by Bombadier) has sort of a split level car and has space for hanging about 8 bikes. We just take all the space and lean the tandem.

As for conductors, smile nicely and ask in your best French if it is OK to park the bike here. They are pretty good we find. As long as it is not a safety hazard, they will let you stay put.

I hate traveling on the French intercity trains. Sometimes there is a whole baggage carriage and, sometimes, there is a tiny cubicle. It all fits somehow though.

Originally Posted by geoffs View Post
We have a non-coupled tandem (Santana Sovereign currently up for sale) and we've had more problems on trains than planes when we've been travelling. There have been a few times when we were told no room it's to big and we've had to beg, grovel to get it on at the last possible minute. 2x26x26x10 cases are so much easier
Here's what we wrote after our first big trip with out then new Mocha Co-Motion Mocha Co-Pilot Tandem
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Old 04-07-17, 07:42 AM
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Thanks again for all the replies. I haven't made up my mind yet as I can see there are many ways to skin a cat. We are considering our first tandem rally (NWTR) in June. My wife loves to travel but I dread traveling especially one involving long flights. At this particular moment I see us traveling within the U.S. Europe is a possibility but it will have to wait until we become empty nestors. Our youngest child just turned twelve. We are not taking our kids (2) with us to the June rally as my wife is unwilling/unable to pilot a tandem. I think it would be awesome to take our two boys with us.

We live in Colorado and most of the rallies are on the East Coast and beyond driving distance!

Right now I have my order for the new tandem as a non-coupled tandem. But I course I can still change my mind prior to the actual build of the frame which could be longer than ten weeks.
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Old 04-07-17, 11:11 AM
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I'm surprised the coupled option for your Santana is $3000. The new Santana Ti should require only 4 couplers.
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Old 04-07-17, 11:29 AM
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oldacura,
I've shipped singles from Houston to Breck for $35 each way on Bikeflights before. Granted that it was during one of their specials, but $170 one way seems excessive to me.

pdlpsher,
If you're going to travel with your bike at all, get the couplers. We have tandems with and without couplers, but the one we invariably take on trips is the one with. The standard 62 linear inch cases is also the way to go. Rental cars, ubers, buses, trains, and planes are non issue. We have taken a few trips in propeller props where the large full size case would have been a big problem. My 110lb wife can handle the cases by herself if needed, and I do like having my bike with me at all time.

On the other hand, don't people travel to Loveland just to bike? We're hoping to wander up there someday during one of our Colorado trips. In the mean time, see you in Seattle. We too have given up on taking our teenage boy on long bike trips with us.

CJ
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Old 04-07-17, 12:07 PM
  #25  
pdlpsher
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Bikes: 2017 Santana Ti700

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Originally Posted by DKMcK View Post
I'm surprised the coupled option for your Santana is $3000. The new Santana Ti should require only 4 couplers.
Yes. The quoted price is $1,500. One Safecast is $1,000 I think. Once you add taxes, shipping, and the cable splitters it's close to $3,000. I did round it up as I don't know the exact shipping cost for the Safecase.

I did talk to Tim at Santana this week regarding the cost of the couplers. I did tell him that with the new frame design only four couplers are used (down from six since the lateral tube is now missing). He said the price remains the same as the new couplers are now bigger and hence use more material. Without the lateral tube all other tubes have grown in size although I don't believe it's substantially bigger. I saw two Ti tandems with the new 'Reveal' frame at my local dealer before I ordered my tandem. One of the two is coupled. With Santana's new coupler design I cannot even see the couplers until I got very close to them.

I still have plenty of time to change my mind. I'm sure Santana will be happy to upgrade it for me before my frame is being built
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