Copied with permission from
Tandem Magazine spring '97

Road Test

Co-Motion Co-Pilot

Text from photo

By David Morgan

Parked on a short-cut street, in a section of town bordering on the wrong side of the tracks, the CoMotion workshop is a friendly oasis tucked away in an old wooden building.

On any given day you can be greeted by owners Dan Vrijmoet or Dwan Shepherd as they take care of business, not overseeing their employees, but torch in hand, getting dirty. Itís a light-hearted place with a vintage Dukes of Hazzard T-shirt on one wall and a velvet Elvis on another. In the corner, mixed in with a bunch of CoMotionís regular tube stock, are a couple of lengths of what Dwan affectionately refers to as "decorative ironwork."

"I havenít figured out exactly how weíre going to make this work for a frameset--but we will," said Dwan, chuckling as he flexed the limber tubes that resemble lathe-turned wood.

Weíll be sure to show you a shot of that table-leg tandem when it rolls out of CoMotionís shop.

CoMotion Cycles is an up-and-coming tandem manufacturer, located in Eugene, Oregon. In less than 10 years, CoMotion has built an impeccable reputation for top-quality craftsmanship and outstanding handling tandems. The reputation is upheld by an ardent--and growing--group of loyal owners.

We tested the CoPilot, CoMotionís tandem equipped with S and S Bicycle Torque Couplers. It is the only current production tandem with couplers available--from any manufacturer. CoMotion also makes other models with couplers as a custom option.

My wife, Lisa, and I took the CoPilot for an extended real-world test on our honeymoon tour of Provence.

CONSTRUCTION

A CoMotionís greatest strength is in the frame. This tandem reflected that with perfect alignment, careful welds, and a mix of special triple-butted Reynolds 531 tubing made exclusively for CoMotion.

The direct lateral frame can be disassembled into three sections. The couplers are placed in front of the captainís seat tube and in front of the stokerís seat tube. Since couplers cannot be made to work with ovalized tubing, the CoPilot features a bottom tube that is round at the bottom brackets and ovalized in between. This did not have any deleterious effect on the side-side-stability, or any other aspect of the CoPilot.

The couplerís interlocking end pieces are welded over each tube at the joint and connect with a locking ring. Each end piece has a row of teeth that interlock with the other. Interlock the two pieces, and the threads line up on the exterior. To secure the joint, a special wrench, supplied with the CoPilot, turns the locking ring over these threads and tightens everything down. This draws the pieces together and locks them in.


Interlocking teeth on the S and S Couplers line up the
tubes and the locking ring holds everything together.

The couplers are exceptionally well-made. Precision machining and perfect fit inspires confidence in the design--a good thing when you pull three sections from a suitcase and start assembling your tandem.

COMPONENTS

Our bike featured component niceties such as Specialized tandem cranks, Sachs New Success derailleurs front and rear, and Hugi hubs. Next year the hubs will be replaced with Phil Wood tandem hubs. Good swap, unless you like the Hugiís fishing reel sound effects.

The gearing of the 11-28 Sachs freewheel with the 32-44-54 chainrings lacked low range for touring. On a bike that is going to see heavy loads and steep climbs, that is not going to work for most teams. Bar-end Shimano shifters round out the drivetrain.

The Shimano LX cantilever brakes worked surprisingly well with the Dia-Compe long-pull levers. The combination did not get too mushy--but for some downhills a brake that shuts things down with more authority would help for just-before-the-corner braking. Shimano XT cantilevers will show up on 1997 models.

Mavic Open 4 CD rims are solid and stayed true throughout some tough terrain. The Specialized Armadillo 700 X 26 gave a comfortable ride and held stable in steep, twisting descents. Only one flat in 600+ miles ainít bad either.

Our test bike had an Arai drum installed. If you are in the hills of Provence, you want some back-up. Otherwise, you have a blowout or sit around a lot burning your fingertips waiting for the rims to cool.

RIDE

We put more than 600 miles on the CoPilot during a two week tour in Provence and while staying with friends in Holland. This was Lisaís shakedown cruise--she had never been on a tandem for more than two days in a row.

The CoPilot was an excellent choice for this trip because the handling was rock-solid and the ride smooth. A novice, Lisa was soon at ease on the CoPilot; its predictability and stability had a lot to do with that. It made captaining a beginner on some very serious terrain easy on me.

On downhills, I would hold the bike on a line through a curve--even with Lisa sometimes squirming and trying to look past me. As she got used to the fast descents, she settled down and enjoyed the ride (most of the time).

During one very scary, very quick moment on a right-hand curve that tightened right up on itself with no warning, the CoPilot scored its highest points. A single in front of us radically shifted back to the inside just before a car cutting the apex nearly clipped him. The CoPilot reacted with my instinctive maneuver. It was all over in less than a blink. We stayed upright and off the Renaultís grill. This exceeded my expectations of any tandem. Give the CoPilot a 10+ for high-speed evasive maneuvers.

On climbs, of which we had many, the CoPilot was forgiving of our clumsy early attempts to climb in sync out of the saddle. Here again, a less rigid frame would not have behaved so nicely. While the hills in Provence require better conditioning than we had, a better low range would help most teams. A 32-tooth chainring with a 28T cog was not low enough for us.

Shifts were crisp, and the clunks from the non-Hyperglide cogs were reassuring. STI or Ergo shifting would be logical upgrade, (both require an aftermarket gadget to allow three-chainring shifting) but some of us are still satisfied with the bar-ends. They are better for front shifting, as they made trimming the front derailleur simple.

We had a couple of eager testers on our tour that put in time on the CoPilot. Sam was an experienced single bicycle rider on his first try with a tandem. Kate was mainly a mountain biker, and also never on a tandem. Verdict? Two thumbs up, way up. While Sam said that he was "...both repelled and intrigued by tandems..." he was also more than willing to get back on whenever he could. Sam and Kate gave the CoPilot high marks (as did we) for comfort, stability, and inspiring confidence. These were serious cyclists on their first tandem rides and they felt right at home.

That is due to the innate performance CoMotion tandems are known for. Slack angles, excessive fork rake and cramped quarters are left to other builders.

CONCLUSION

The CoPilot is a well-made and responsive tandem that has the unique ability to both reassure and inspire spirited riding. S and S Couplers are bomb-proof and literally have no negatives. Iíd be happy to take it again.

Bottom Line

The CoPilot is a high-performance travel tandem you can trust.


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