Upgrading the Tandem from 8 spd. to 9 spd.
(Archived from 2001)
Hopefully this is helpful for those who are considering upgrading to the new 9 speed
Our Burley Duet tandem came stock with 8 spd. bar end shifters, Shimano XT RD, and
Shimano LX FD. To get low enough gears for touring, we changed the stock 54/44/28
chainrings to 54/38/24. We had an 11-30 cassette for "normal" riding and a 12-32
After a recent hilly tour, we decided that we wanted to have a lower low gear.
Microadapters to put a smaller chainring would not work without getting a longer bottom
bracket spindle, due to interference from the oversized bottom bracket shell on the
Burley. And we didn't want to mess around with getting a new tandem crankset.
But then the new 9 spd. came on the market, with an 11-34 cassette that didn't have any
big gaps, unlike the 7 spd. and 8 spd. 11-34 cassettes. This would give us the range we
wanted for all of the kinds of riding we do, without having to constantly swap out the
rear cluster. So we bought new 9 spd. bar end shifters, a 9 spd. chain, and the 9 spd.
11-34 cassette and installed it all on the bike. I kept the chain long enough so I could
have one extra link of slack while in the big cog/big chainring combination. Due to the
larger 34 tooth cog, we had to turn the B-tension adjustment screw on the RD all the way
in for the top pulley to clear the cog.
Downshifts were OK, but upshifts were sluggish. It turned out we needed a new return
spring in the RD. We replaced the spring, and I installed a Rollamajig I had lying around
in the garage. The shifting on the workstand was much better. But then on the road, when
we were in the large chainring and the smaller cogs, the shifting wasn't very good. The
adjustment that allowed the top pulley to clear the 34 tooth cog in the granny gear had
the unintended side effect of keeping the pulley too far away from the smaller cogs in the
At this point, I installed a new 9 spd. Shimano XT RD. I had to remove one link of the
chain to get the top pulley to clear the 34 tooth cog, even with the B-tension adjustment
screw all the way in. (The chain was still long enough to shift to the big/big
Again, I had to replace the spring in the new RD. I took the spring I had put in the 8
spd. RD and moved it to the new 9 spd. RD and then installed everything back on the bike.
The same spring was slightly weaker in the 9 spd. RD compared to when I had it in the 8
spd. RD. (I didn't overstretch the aftermarket spring when removing it from the 8 spd. RD,
so I believe this difference is due to the RD design.) This difference was noticeable in
the crispness of the shifting.
So in addition to the Rollamajig and the new 9 spd. RD, I installed a Bassworm, and I also
changed out the cable and all of the housing. This improved the shifting quite a
bit, although it was never quite as crisp and clean as the previous 8 spd.
However, the 24/34 low gear wasn't too much of an improvement over the
24/32. To get even lower, we ended up installing a
19 tooth fourth chainring. With this setup, the 19/30 gear was low
enough - we didn't need the 19/34 gear. So we changed out the 9 spd. 11-34
cassette and went back to an 8 spd. 11-30 cassette, using the original 8 spd. XT
rear derailer and bar end shifters.
Our current 8 spd. system shifts noticeably better than our 9 spd. setup -
I'm rather surprised, since most others have noticed equal or better
performance. Here's a couple of thoughts why: