The Meridian Ascension

by Jim Leis, from a T@H posting

This thread has brought up many questions regarding the differences
between our tandems and those of Santana's. We have received many
inquiries from members of this forum. 

Allow me to attempt to explain the differences.

Ascension-Al vs. Sovereign Frame/Fork differences:

I can agree that at a glance our bikes look similar. However they are
vastly different. After countless different prototypes, riding,
designing, and testing as well as reviewing the strain gauge test
results that Easton performed on an Easton tubed Santana we have
developed a tandem with different handling characteristics and increased
stiffness while neutralizing the high stress areas discovered by Easton.
Although most of the tubes look similar (except the top tubes) the only
tubes that are exactly the same are the head tube and the massive 43mm x
26mm chain stays.

During Easton's testing the areas that showed concern to their Engineers
were the following: down tube and top tube behind the head tube,
captain's seat tube at the bottom bracket shell and the top and lateral
tube just behind the captain's seat tube.

Meridian's Ascension-Al addresses all of these areas of concern (without
a weight penalty) to produce a tandem that is more efficient with
greater lateral stiffness and in my opinion will reduce the risk of a
failure near the head tube. Please note I have no knowledge of any
aluminum tandem failing in this area---just a long-term safety concern.

An additional concern is their new conical shaped down tubes being used
which feature the same wall thickness as the bike tested (2.7mm) but
have a 13% smaller diameter at the headtube (44mm instead of the
50.8mm). The high stress levels in this area (second highest recorded
during the overall test), which exceeded 12ksi during a braking test
will be adversely increased.

Another important frame design element on the Ascension-Al is the
intersection of the lateral tube with the rear bottom bracket shell
(which requires 3 different tube-mitering operations) as opposed to
intersecting the rear seat tube just above the rear bottom bracket (1
miter). Intersecting the bottom bracket with the lateral tube increases
frame stiffness and efficiency and once again in my opinion adds an
attractive element of style. The rear lateral tube also has the wall
thickness re-distributed to have more material at the captain's seat
tube intersection to reduce this high stress area and produce a stiffer
and more efficient frame.

Meridian's larger diameter continuous length top tube with triple
butting (thick at the head tube, front seat tube and rear seat tube)
increases lateral stiffness for better cornering and control. While
further reducing the high-stress area (highest recorded during the
overall test) near the head tube as well as the stress "hot spot" just
behind the captain's seat tube.

A longer and more comfortable stoker top tube (28.34" or 720mm) as
opposed to the Sovereign's new for '99 top tube length of 27.75" or

The Ascension-Al also features double butted seat tubes to increase
stiffness and efficiency while reducing another area of high stress
(third highest recorded during the overall test) on the Captain's seat
tube just above the bottom brackes. The sovereign uses single butted
seat tubes.

The Double butted oval bottom tube used on the Meridian is a different
shape oval but has the same butted sections as that of the Sovereign but
neither is "20/10/20" or "2:1". In fact, after scratching my head really
hard, extensive research and information from Easton, I can't come up
with any tubes the Sovereign uses that feature these unique mystery

Elegant CNC machined dropouts with a classic shape and a replaceable
stainless derailleur hanger as compared to the "plug and socket type"
currently used on the Sovereign.

4 standard frame sizes: small, medium, large, and a popular new size
recommended by our newest dealer Dick Powell of Bicycle Outfitter,

Disk brake compatibility the Sovereign definitely shines in this area.
Santana has developed a mounting bracket that features mounting holes
for the Hayes Disk of which they bolt an adapter onto and it becomes a
mount for the Formula disk they are currently using. Is this clever
mount being installed to give their customers a choice or is Santana
preparing for a spec change from the Formula disk that they have so
candidly endorsed to the Hayes disk? Either way the new mount is good

After much research and product testing we feel the Hayes brake is
showing the most promise. So we have decided to wait for Hayes to
complete their tandem disk test. I recently talked to a Product Engineer
at Hayes and learned the official testing had begun and the lab tests
showed "good" results the next phase of the testing will be a variety of
riding test. Ultimately if testing goes well the will put this new brake
into production for delivery in July. Until then we plan to watch the
disk brake market evolve.

Our new Meridian tandem fork features a 1-1/4" steerer tube with massive
41mm x 29mm blades and investment cast drop-outs when compared with the
Sovereign's 38.5mm x 27mm our new design (although slightly heavier) is
nearly 40% stronger and yields a higher strength to weight ratio. This
stiffer and stronger fork adds stability and precise cornering to
balance the Ascension-Al's overall performance.

There is a common feature between the Ascension-Al and the
Sovereign---the clean welds and precision alignment.

Meridian recently entered into a manufacturing partnership with Gary
Thams, President of Arc & Spark Welding and personal friend of 25 years.
After a 3 year quest to bring Meridian to a reality, a growing list of
back-orders for our tandems, producing the necessary tooling and
fixtures for the project and purchasing custom-drawn tubing and
designing tandem specific components. I have contracted Gary's Company
to produce our frames. I am looking foreword to the relationship. Having
been "hands-on" producing more tandem frames than any single person I
can think of Gary and Company are highly qualified. Although Gary's
Company will be producing our frames, all product design, engineering
and R&D will be performed under my direction in Bend Oregon.

A brief history for those of you unfamiliar with Gary's Company and his
involvement in tandems and bicycle manufacturing. In 1988 as an employee
of Santana looking for areas of tandem market growth I discussed with
Gary the possibility of his company producing for Santana (on a
sub-contract basis) some new models of T.I.G. welded tandems. At the
time Santana only produced fillet-brazed tandems. Until this discussion
Gary (a metal fabricator and welder) had never even repaired a frame let
alone build one. After many considerations Gary and myself designed,
engineered and produced the first fully adjustable tandem fixture for
Santana. Arc & Spark Welding maintained this new versatile fixture while
producing tandem frames for Santana at his facility. The new T.I.G.
welded and more affordable models were a huge success. Sales were up to
about 1,200 tandems in 1991. Of these 1,200 Arc & Spark produced about
50% at his facility. In late '93 Santana's aluminum tandems started
production and after the first 100 tandems were produced at Santana with
limited success, Arc & Spark was chosen to take over the aluminum
production in addition to the T.I.G. welded Cromoly tandems he was
already producing for Santana. Since then Gary's company has produced
over 90% of all Santana aluminum models and an estimated total of 8,000+
tandems for Santana. Santana recently severed their 11-year affiliation
with Arc & Spark Welding.

Besides the 8,000+ Santana's. Gary's company has produced bicycles for
Schwinn, Quintana Roo, Shimano, VooDoo, Masi, Easton, Mantis, Boulder,
and is currently proto-typing tandems (using Meridian's tooling) for
"new-player" Longbikes.

Ascension-Al vs. Sovereign Components:

The two bikes have a comparable list of components with the major
differences being the following:

Pedals: the Ascension-Al has SPD 747's, the Sovereign has 525"s.

Bottom Brackets: the Ascension-Al has World Class Titanium, the
Sovereign has Hadley Steel.

Cassette Cogs: the Ascension-Al has Shimano XT, the Sovereign has LX.

Front Derailleur: the Ascension-Al features a modified Ultegra
derailleur that allows "dingle" free performance and enhanced shifting.

Brakes: the Ascension-Al has XT V-brakes while the Sovereign features

Hubs: the Ascension-Al uses Shimano XT Tandem Hubs, the Sovereign uses

In addition to these major differences our tandems also feature:

World Class forged aluminum captain and adjustable stoker stem with a
split bar clamp for quick bar or stem changes. The captain stems are
available in 9 size/rise configurations and the stoker stem is available
with two extension inserts that allow many personalized fit options to
our customers. Mavic T217 40 or 48 spoke wheels with Wheelsmith 13/14
gauge butted tandem spokes, ergo mens/ladies saddles and World Class
bullhorn stoker bars and suspension seat post.

All other component parts not mentioned cranks, threadless headsets,
tires, control levers, etc., are exactly the same or generic equals.

Meridian vs. Santana warranty:

Frame: Meridian Lifetime warranty, Santana Lifetime warranty
Fork: Meridian Lifetime warranty, Santana Lifetime warranty
Paint: Meridian Lifetime warranty, Santana Lifetime warranty
Wheels: Meridian 5 year, Santana 2 year
Components: Meridian 3 years, Santana 1, 3, and 5 years (depending on
component mfg.)
Satisfaction: Meridian 30-day money-back guarantee, Santana none

Price: Meridian Ascension-Al $3795 Santana Sovereign $4295

My biased conclusion:
The Meridian has an up-spec components package, a refined frame with
superior ride qualities a longer rear top tube, a stronger fork, and a
customer satisfaction guarantee at a price $500 less then that of the

We are passionate with our goal to produce the greatest value in all
levels of tandem bicycles. Our tandems are not carbon copies or mere
look-a-likes of any other tandem and our products rely heavily on design
and technology and because of this we do not place a priority on
marketing over technology. However, We do appreciate good (honest)

I encourage you to dig-up your recent issue of the 1999 Santana's
buyer's guide and compare the specs, features and fanfare and draw your
own conclusions.

Jim Leis
Meridian Tandems
The New Benchmark in Quality Tandem Bicycles