Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Frostbike 2015: Salsa Cycles' New Tandem

Finally! Salsa is going to unleash the Powderkeg
NOTE: Large doses of "my opinion" will be handed out in gloppy dollops today. You've been forewarned.....

Tandems- You can't live with 'em, and you can't live without them. At least from the standpoint of the cycling industry, I feel this is true. I get why people like them. I mean, if you are going to ride together, why not work together? No one gets dropped and you both experience the scenery together. If you have compatibility issues, tandems can be a nightmare, but for the right team, it can be awesome.

Tandems, in my opinion, are also one of the least understood machines in cycling by the non-tandem riding public. To design a tandem the right way, tons of R&D and testing should be done. Components are stressed far more than on traditional bikes, so wheels, forks, and drive train parts have to be up to the abuse. That's why good tandems cost a lot of money. The cost of entry to try a tandem is at odds with most people's commitment level. Most folks are just curious, but tandem bicycles demand a strong commitment. Well....the good ones do. 

 Salsa went with a mountain bike tandem, which I know is going to disappoint many folks looking for "road bike" tandems, but c'mon! 90% of tandems that come through my stand in a year are not being raced or being ridden in group rides. They are mostly recreationalists that want a tandem to ride on for fun, recreational rides. Most never use the drops on drop bars, so why even demand that you get a "road bike tandem". It's silly.

Take off the Schwalbe mountain bike tires on this, slap on some fun lovin', fast, comfortable Big Apples and cruise pavement till the cows come home in comfort. Go ahead, mount a set of aero bar clip ons if you must, but don't hate on this bike because it isn't a road racing tandem. Besides, the Powderkeg can be far more versatile than any road bike tandem. It can be a RAGBRAI fun machine, (and the color helps there for certain!), and it could be your fire road exploration bike, or it could be the perfect rig to explore any unpaved road anywhere. Try that on a "road racing tandem".

The Powderkeg was perhaps the least well kept secret in the Salsa line up for years. Prototypes were wielded right out in the open, and Salsa Cycles even showed one in their booth a couple of Frostbikes ago. Everyone knew it existed, but you couldn't buy one. Now you can buy this highly refined, battle tested rig for 4G. That isn't bad at all when you consider that many Salsa bikes easily eclipse that figure and are not tandems. Would I get one? Yes- if I can scrape up the cabbage. In my little world it would solve several issues, like getting my son out on gravel, my wife on a quick recreational ride, and my daughter on a bike at all. (That's right, she's never ridden a bike at 14 years old because she doesn't want to crash.) We will see.....

Bottom line is that this is a rare bike in a world where "good" tandems cost at least this much and far more. Too bad that this rig was overshadowed by the massive interest in the new Warbirds, because this bike is cool, really, and I think it deserved more attention than it got.


 

4 comments:

Pat said...

Nearly 20 years ago I went into a bike shop in February in a snow storm and made an offer on a Burley tandem they couldn't refuse. Put a child stoker kit on it with pink toe clips and that spring my daughter and I rode that thing everywhere. She named it Blue Lightning and we made a pinky swear to never tell Mom how fast it would go. She grew up fearless and I swear that bike had a lot to do with it. I would love to get one of these beasts, put her on the back and see how fast we could go now!

Georgie Ormrod said...

Off road tandem riding is a whole other kind of riding and is amazing fun - and that's coming from a stoker ;-)
Attempting to match pedals to ruts, a completely impossible feat but one that makes for a great deal of laughs. And powering through mud like you would not believe!! Yes!!!

Mark Shelley said...

I know this thread is old, but... My wife and I have been avid tandem riders for 2 decades+. This is the newest thing added to the fleet, partly due to this blog, partly due to my new bike commute being a thing of ugliness. The commute made me drop my Altamira Red for my old cyclocross bike with a set of 42x700 Conti Speed Rides. That bike reminded me just how fun riding without caring about the surface could be...

So, I wanted a warbird tandem, not a real product, but what I did was use an mix of parts to produce the PowderKeg, drop bar edition. In two weeks, well tackle D2R2 on the thing. thank you for your write-up, I'm inspired...

Guitar Ted said...

@Mark Shelley: That's awesome! Thanks for this comment. I am very glad that you have found some good inspiration here and I wish you and your stoker many miles of smiles on that rig.