If you've been shopping for a take-down tandem, beware of the Burley Rumba S+S. The sticker shock could floor you. Starting with the same proven 700c road frame that either comes dressed up as the Duet or ratcheted down a couple of notches as the Rumba, Burley then added new welded S&S couplers, said a little hocus-pocus and--poof--out comes the most affordable travel tandem in existence.
Burley is known for producing a very well-made tandem frame, decking
it out carefully and offering it for sale at an attractive price
point. As a result, many cyclists have gotten their start in
the wonderful world of tandeming on a Burley. So, while it may
have been a shock for competitors, we weren't that surprised last
fall at Interbike when Burley unveiled the Rumba S+S.
In capitalizing on the surging popularity of S&S tandems in
such a value-oriented fashion, Burley upped the ante in the game
of luring tandem buyers. Twenty-six hundred and fifty bucks gets
you in. Granted, you could buy the same tandem for a grand less
without the couplers. But... if it must travel and you are on
a budget, this is the place to start looking.
And we are unabashed S&S advocates. S&S couplers make
sense on just about any tandem (or single, for that matter).
Outside of aluminum (unavailable), titanium (prohibitively expensive,
but possible), a super light speed-racer (too heavy) or some other
esoteric tandem, S&S couplers are solid and reliable and they
just plain make sense. In most cases the weight penalty is negligible
and the benefits substantial.
If you are unsure about S&S couplers, just imagine that they are to tandems what ferrules are to a fishing rod: That well integrated and that necessary. You wouldn't pack around an 8-foot fly rod, would you? So why wrestle with an 8-foot tandem? Put joints in them and break them down. Simple.
The only rub--until now--has been a combination of expense and the scarcity of production tandems equipped with the joints. The introduction of the Rumba S+S brings take-down tandems to the masses.
Like other Burleys we have seen in the last few years, this frameset is crafted more like a custom tandem than a production model. An advantage to a Burley frame is this quality workmanship. The Rumba is identical to the pricier Duet, lacking only the more expensive componentry. (An S&S Duet is available for another $550.)
The Burley-exclusive, custom-butted True Temper 4130 chromoly frameset is joined with clean, tight tig-welds. This is a new tubing spec for 1998, and is made up of "proprietary," oversized and double-butted tubes and larger diameter fork blades.
The S&S versions differ from the one-piece models at the bottom tube, using a round tube rather than the ovalized one on the one-piece tandems. That just makes it simpler to use the couplings. On some custom tandems and CoMotion's Co-Pilot (the only other production S&S tandem we know of) the bottom tube is round at the coupling and oval in between.
The seat tube is attached to the seat post.
The seat post is attached to the....Actually,
what we have here is a prototype of the
actual welded S&S coupler, a double-
bolt seat clampand adjustable stoker stem.
Like most full-length top-and internal-tube tandems, the Rumba is aligned well. I have toured the manufacturing facility and viewed frames in various stages of construction. (See "The Ideal Business," T&FC Summer '97). The miters and pre-welded joints are amazingly well done. The main thing to separate this frame from a custom is a lack of the fine detail and finish work found on a boutique tandem.
But that's a somewhat unfair comparison. This is a production tandem, and as such, it's exemplary. It's also the first tandem we have seen with the new tig-welded couplings. Instead of stainless steel couplings brazed to the frame, these are plated steel endpieces with a stainless nut. A rubber sleeve covers the ends and protects the welded joint.
These are not necessarily cheaper than the originals, just easier
to work with for many companies. However, they don't look quite
as nice to us, and they aren't fully stainless steel. We don't
know how well they will hold up or if the gasket and plating are
adequate to eliminate corrosion. That doesn't mean we are worried
about them: S&S Machine has the coupler business pretty well
figured out, and the Rumba comes from a reputable and established
company with a lifetime warranty.
"The welded couplers fit into our manufacturing process better
than ones that are brazed. They don't cost any less, but we couldn't
use the other type and keep our price where we want it. These
are more efficient for us and work great--and I think they even
look more modern..." said Matt Purvis, Burley's liaison tot
he the outside world.
The frame is only available in a 22/19.5, medium. That's too
bad, but I wouldn't be surprised if that changes soon. Double-eyelet
dropouts are an easily overlooked bonus, and the frame will accommodate
racks, fenders, four bottles, drum brake and a pump. The uni-crown
fork is made from more of that Burley-exclusive True Temper chromoly
and has an externally butted, oversized steerer. The blades for
'98 are beefed up to 1 1/4 inches from 1 1/8 inches.
One thing that can't be overlooked is the striking Sapphire Blue
finish. Burley uses a two-stage powdercoat technique that results
in anything but the dull powdercoats you may have seen before.
These are brilliant and very durable. For an S&S tandem,
scratch-resistance is important, and this finish is something
to crow about.
Spec'ing tandems is not easy when you start trying to trim away
excess cost. Something has to give. The Rumba S+S has been
stretch and pulled, but has come out of it in surprisingly good
shape. Such good shape that we thought we better compare it head-to-head
with its upper-end alter ego.
In fact, as we began to examine these two tandems (Rumba/Duet
S+S), we saw that the spec is so close that if your budget
is important, it would be tough to justify paying the difference
for the Duet. And if you haven't even considered S&S couplings,
but have come to grips with the price upgrade from a normal Rumba
to a Duet, then your big gain would come by paying the $450 more
to get S&S coupling convenience at the expense of some higher-end
Where are we going with this? Let's just say that this is one smokin' deal on a tandem--S&S or otherwise.
And what don't we like? The brakes on both tandems are Shimano
LX cantilevers. In the age of V-brakes, they don't cut it any
longer. However, Burley believes that safety is at issue. After
testing available units, Burley concluded that cable failure is
possible with any of the current inexpensive V-daptors, due to
fatigue from cable movement on a small pulley. Let's just cross
our fingers when Purvis tells us that Shimano may remedy the cable-pull
STI lever V-brake dilemma.
The Rumba S+S comes with a 7-speed 11-28 cassette matched
with Burley alloy cranks and 52/42/28 chainrings made in Taiwan
by Tracer. These are good-looking cranks, very similar to a
Sugino Fuse 500. This is entry-ish level, so that's fine. The
Duet has Shimano 105 cranks, 53/42/30 chainrings and an 8-speed
11-30 cassette. Again, in the price category, good stuff. The
Rumba shifts with RSX levers and the Duet uses 105. Both use
105 front derailleurs, and the Rumba has STX RC in the rear where
the Duet upgrades to an XT.
Both sport 48-spoke Matrix Vapor 700cm rims with Shimano tandem
hubs (LX on the Rumba and XT on the Duet) and smooth-rolling Ritchey
Tom Slick 700x25 tires. The Rumba has generic alloy pedals with
clips and straps, the Duet uses an SPD clone. Drop bars in front
and bullhorns in the back are no-name alloy, as are the 300mm
seatposts. Both use Burley brand stems that have a strikingly
Taiwanese look about them. Adjustable stoker stems are extra.
Either way, Duet or Rumba-equipped, the quality of craftsmanship and performance of the parts are easily in line with the asking price. But for our hard-earned money it's tough to pass on the Rumba.
Manufacturer: Burley Design Cooperative
PHONE NUMBER: (800) 311-5294
WEB URL: www.burley.com
MODEL: Rumba S+S
SIZES AVAILABLE: 22/19 1/2"
TOTAL WEIGHT: 42.5 lbs.
FRAME MATERIAL: True Temper Burley-Exclusive custom double-butter oversized 4130 chromoly.
FRAME CONSTRUCTION: Tig-welded
FORK: Unicrown. Chromoly oversized True Temper Burley-Exclusive tandem blades, butted steerer.
RIMS: Matrix Vapor 48-hole
HUBS: Shimano LX tandem
TIRES: Richey Tom Slick 700x25
DERAILLEURS F/R: Shimano 105 front/STX RC rear
CRANKSET: Burley Alloy (Tracer)
COGSET: Shimano 11-28 7-speed
SHIFTERS: Shimano RSX STI Dual Control
BRAKESET: Shimano LX cantilevers
HEADSET: Tange Avenger 1 1/8" (NOTE IS THIS 1 1/4" FOR 1998)
HANDLEBARS: Drop front/bullhorn rear
STEMS: Burley chromoly front/adjustable Burley chromoly rear
SEATPOSTS: 300 mm alloy
SADDLES: Vetta Comfort Torino
PEDALS: Alloy with clips and strap
TOP TUBE: 35mm
DOWN TUBE: 38.3mm
BOTTOM TUBE: 44.5mm
SEAT TUBES: 29mm
FRONT TOP TUBE LENGTH: 21 3/4"
REAR TOP TUBE LENGTH: 26 3/4"
FRONT SEAT TUBE (CT): 23 1/2" (to top of dual bolt collar)
REAR SET TUBE (CT): 20"
BOTTOM TUBE (CC): 27"
FRONT BB HEIGHT: 10 3/4"
REAR BB HEIGHT: 10 3/4"
WHEELBASE: 68 3/4"
FRONT CENTER: 24"
CHAIN STAYS: 17 1/4"
HEAD ANGLE: 73 degrees
FRONT SEAT ANGLE: 73 degrees
REAR SEAT ANGLE: 73 degrees
Choosing a tandem all comes down to where the rubber meets the
road. The ride. That's when you know if the Rumba/Duet S+S
is for you. There's no such thing as a good deal on a poorly-fitted
tandem or on a tandem that doesn't handle the way you want. So
the ride is all important.
Our testers found the Rumba/Duet S+S to be an easy-going tandem,
one that is comfortable from the start. Not harsh and not mushy,
either: milk-mannered and predictable for the most part.
At just over 42 pounds, this is not a light and sprightly tandem.
And the 48-spoke wheels take a while to accelerate. But this
is a fun tandem all the same. Smooth on the flats and at home
descending long sweeping turns and straightaways, the handling
leans toward straight-ahead stability rather than nimble performance.
Some testers felt the Rumba/Duet in S+S incarnation handles
slightly differently than the previous Duet we tested. In some
cornering it felt as if it couldn't decide if it wanted to be
leaned or steered. It's hard to pinpoint what caused these comments,
with different testers and constantly changing perceptions among
the test crew.
Tandem handling is one of the most personal--and difficult to
assess aspects of tandem testing. Some swear by slow and steady
handling, while others demand a quicker, higher performance feel.
The Rumba seems to fall in the middle of this range and that
might explain the slight hesitation and "diving" sensation
felt when pressed hard into corners or when descending twisty,
Regardless, this is a minor consideration. The handling is fairly
neutral. And, I think you get used to what you ride. If the
bike requires a slightly different touch, you adjust. After a
few rides and maybe 100 miles I didn't notice it much any longer.
But, if you are concerned, ride more than one tandem before you
As for the shifting, the Shimano RSX STI was actually very good.
There were occasional hang-ups shifting onto the big ring, but
for the most part, and with the rear derailleur in particular,
the STI shifting was as good as any we have ridden. The 1998
models have been redesigned and front shifting is improved. On
the 105 and up, the front shifting is quite a bit better with
the ramped and pinned chainrings.
Braking is excellent--for cantilevers. It used to be that cantilevers
were just fine for tandems. They still work fine. But V-brakes
stole the show. The only problem is standard road levers (STI/Ergo
included) don't pull enough cable to actuate the new brakes.
That's where the V-daptors come in. A pulley wheel is used to
take up some of the extra cable.
Burley's tests show the possibility of cable breakage with V-daptors. That would be bad news on a single, but potentially disastrous (legally and physically) on a tandem. Burley called in Shimano, showed the tests and results. And that's why Shimano won't permit, stand behind or whatever, the use of anything but V-brake levers with V-brakes. Hopefully an official fix will arrive soon. If not, then all of us V-daptor renegades are condemned to exile.
Climbing on the Rumba is sure and steady. You don't get the same
surging feel as with some resilient, lightweight tandems, but
you get up the hill just fine. The frame is plenty stiff front
to back. I prefer a lower top tube and this frame felt slightly
tall and top-heavy for me, but climbing out of the saddle was
still good. Other testers also gave it high marks here.
This tandem felt most at home out on the open road, spinning away
the miles. It is comfortable for long rides and would make a
fine touring, sport and rally tandem. Our only reservation would
be screaming fast descents with tight turns. And then only because
we've been able to go faster on other tandems. But, then again,
those tandems cost a lot more.
Cost is a definite issue when buying a tandem. But the purchase
should be considered a long-term investment. When you buy a quality
frame you are ensured of lasting value. Upgrades in componentry
are easy. And a quality frame will hold its value in the used
market, something to consider if you might upgrade in the future.
The Rumba S+S would be perfect for many teams with this philosophy.
This tandem screams value. If you need a take-down tandem at
a more-than-reasonable price, the Rumba S+S will have you
dancing in the streets.
Phone: (541) 485-5262
Fax: (541) 341-0788
Your travel bike...Your only bike!