From Tandem@Hobbes....

Todd Shusterman's Review of Suspension Forks for Mountain Tandems

Originally posted in Oct. '98 and updated in Sept. '99
in a response to a question asked on T@H

Note: For those who don't know, Todd is the owner of da Vinci Designs,
 one of the primier bicycle component engineering & design companies in
 the U.S. and a producer of exceptional tandems that come standard with
da Vinci's patented independent coasting system.

At 06:08 PM 9/2/99 -0700, Scott Ledbetter asked:

>We just bought a Ventana El Conquistador frame. We are looking for a fork
>suitable for real Colorado off-road use by a 350lb team. 
>In tandem specific forks, it looks like Hanebrink is the only choice. But
>yow! $1100 for the LT model is a big bite. It looks like their Z-6 fork is
>the reincarnation of ZZYZX, and is a little less expensive, but still $600.
>Tandem magazine had a review of this frame with a Marzocchi Jr. T fork.
>This looks OK, but I'm concerned about the strength. Also, does Marzocchi
>consider tandem use 'abuse' under their warrantee? Their stiffest spring
>kit is listed as being for a rider up to 250lb, but what about a 350lb team?
>Other less expensive than Hanebrink possibilities are the Rock Shox
>Boxxer(1998 model, $500), White Bros DC118 (98 model $340), and Manitou
>Xvert-R (1999 model $299). Anyone running any of these forks? 
>A really intriguing possibility is the Risse Trixxxy inverted fork, which
>looks really beefy, and is $670, but includes an oversized hub and Hayes
>I'm not buying a fork until I get confirmation from the manufacturer that a
>fork is approved and warranted for tandem use. I have e-mailed Ventana for
>their suggestions, and also e-mailed Hanebrink, Marzocchi, Rock Shox, Risse
>and Manitou. White Bros doesn't give an e-mail. So far only Hanebrink has
>responded, which I noted and appreciated. They fully support their forks
>for tandem use, and have special stiffer springs.
>Any real-world feedback would be appreciated. Any two-cents you might want
>to add about disk brakes would be great. 

Todd Shusterman responded:

Another update to my 10/98 post "639 words about 9 Suspension Forks" and
then updated 9/3/99.
We are now using, or trying to use, a customized Bombshell Bad Betty. I say
trying to use because delivery has been a big issue. Granted the
customization causes the delays, but the new mods have made the wait almost
tolerable. The fork can be set up with 4 to 6" of travel and available with
a standard 9mm axle or a 20mm through axle. Personally I think the 20mm
axle is great if you are a downhill racer and a flat will put you out of
the race so is does not matter how long it takes to change a flat of put
your bike on a roof rack. But, for the rest of us a standard hub and axle
will work just fine. I am told that the our custom springs are now in
stock, hopefully delivery will improve.

We have also used the Stratos double crown. They are pretty unknown for
their forks, but well known for their rear shock. I think they were the
first to make a remote mount rear shock lock out. I do not remember the
model, but I do remember the details. The fork has 4" of steel spring / oil
bath travel. 9mm standard front hub. aside from the lower maintenance of
the oil bath design, they have room for springs in both legs. Rather than
having custom springs wound the withstand tandem weight they just double
the number of springs. Now you can change one side at a time to fine tune
your ride. I personally was not crazy about the black chrome look, it was a
tad heavier than the Bad Betty and just slightly tighter in the rough
terrain. It sticksion was even less noticeable than the Bad Betty.

Hannabrink 6" travel: A very stiff through axle fork, but good luck getting
it set up and getting the correct guts from those guys. The stock front hub
requires way to much dish in my opinion. Every fork we have got from them
has been customized from the factory by moving the hub 3/8" toward the
disk, this prevents you from ever using the 8" travel option, and requires
careful setup to keep the disk from hitting the outer/upper leg when you
bottom the fork out. Every fork they send us requires several hours of
adjusting to get it set up right. It's almost impossible to get then to
provide stiff enough springs the first time. No one wants to believe how
stiff we tandem folk need it. Once set up they do work great. I had a
conversation with them today about all the problems we have had and of
course they said they have their poop in a group now. I am suppose to have
a pow wow with Dan at Interbike to talk about tandem forks and some new
designs, but that was the sales guy talking.

ZZYZX 4 or 6" travel with springs: We have only used the metal spring model
set with 4" of travel. This fork seemed easy to set up, but that may only
be because we did it right after a Hannabrink. The fork does require
frequent cleaning to keep running smoothly. I don't think you can get them
with disk brake mounts if you can even get them still.

Marzochi Z1 Bomber: Way to soft and flexible, no dice.

Marzochi Jr. T: Even with extra heavy springs from Mountain Speed and
heavier oil in the shock, this fork is for a light team who does not plan
to "go big" offroad.

White Brothers DC150: Double Crown 150mm travel. Another through axle fork.
It requires some magic performed by White Brothers ace tech dude, Aaron, to
set up stiff enough. Again, no one believes they need to be that stiff. It
makes me wonder how many of you out there are ridding with too soft a fork.
If you are bottoming it out every ride it is to soft. Technically it is far
more advanced than the Hannabrink or ZZYZX, but it does lack the HUGE legs
of the other two.

Halson Inversion (the old all black one): This fork is stiff enough but the
action is marginal. This would be a good fork for the occasional dirt road
rides when a little more comfortable ride is all your looking for. It is
not that heavy. Halson, I believe, has been out of business for several years.

Lawill Leader: Less flex than most single crown forks. You can add air
pressure to suite your needs. We didn't really spend that much time with
it. They have been out of production for a couple years.

Dragon 4" travel Single Crown: This fork does very well, very impressive
for a single crown. It is an air / oil fork so you can make it as stiff as
you want. It is surprisingly heavy.
Todd Shusterman
da Vinci Designs
Denver, Colorado

Think Independently - Ride Together