While the Micargi California is a great value in a 26″ wheeled tandem, mostly thanks to its well designed frame, it does have its weak points. The stock wheels are fine for casual use – we’ve ridden them on several short neighborhood rides and one longer ride on one of my usual road loops – but their single wall construction, 36 spokes, and low flanged hubs raise concerns for long term durability.
On their own none of these are particularly problematic but wheel durability, especially for tandems, depends on a lot of things including rider and luggage weight, terrain, riding style, tire width/pressure, and expected performance. A light team riding unloaded on smooth roads can use a relatively low spoke count and/or lighter rim without having to true it very often. Change some of those factors and you impact the durability so maintenance goes up.
Given our intended use for the tandem I wanted a wheelset that would handle any road (paved or not) and a light touring load with our ~325lb team. There are a number of pre-built or custom options to meet these requirements but I like building my own wheels for the extra options it gives in terms of choosing hubs and rims. I also wanted to keep the cost down.
Our California after replacing the cranks, tires, and captain’s seatpost, handlebar and stem.
In my earlier rundown of the Micargi California tandem’s provided components I identified the drivetrain, specifically the cranks and bottom brackets, as a potential upgrade area.
The stock cranks and bottom brackets are functional if not fancy. The steel bottom brackets were well adjusted to spin freely without play. While the riveted chain rings would require the stoker drive crank to be replaced eventually as the chain rings wore out, you could likely go thousands of miles on the provided cranks.
I came across a Truvativ Elita road tandem crankset with bottom brackets for a great price and thought it would make a worthwhile upgrade to the stock crankset and bottom brackets.
My wife and I recently became interested in the idea of a tandem for paved and dirt road use. I want to use 1.75″ – 2″ tires with fenders so 26″ wheel tandems seemed a good starting point.
Looking at the options for lower priced tandems I came across one I’ve been unable to find much info on – the Micargi California. In some ways it’s the Giordano Viaggio of 26″ wheeled tandems but there are some appealing aspects:
- aluminum frame vs steel (KHS Sport, etc) for potentially lighter weight
- frame has both V-brake posts and a disc caliper mount on the rear (the included fork is V-brake only)
- 6 bottle cage mounts, though only 4 of the spots can hold a 24oz bottle and one can hold a 32oz bottle
- eccentric bottom bracket up front (the Viaggio uses an idler tensioner)
- kickstand plate
- priced between $500 – $600 new
For some time now I’ve been wondering about road bikes. I really enjoy the combination of speed and comfort my Bianchi Volpe provides; the 35mm tires can handle everything from bad pavement to unpaved trails while still being fast enough on the road. It’s a versatile commuter and exploring bike.
My Bianchi Volpe in commuting mode.
By comparison a road bike seems almost limited. Still the idea of a lighter, more responsive bike than the Volpe in its current guise has appeal. Modern road bikes made of aluminum and carbon fiber don’t interest me very much so I began looking at classic ’80s racers and their sleek steel frames.