Oh… Yeah. That’s Why We Used To Be Stronger Riders!

Well, we were treated to a big old piece of humble pie yesterday morning when we decided to join a Saturday morning group ride of single bikes.  It’s known at the Saturday morning ‘Sky Loop’.  Long time readers may recall we last rode this route (not the organized ride) on the tandem back in 2010 as part of an impromptu “pop-up” PEACHES ride where just one other couple took us up on our invitation to come out for a weekend spin.

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Back when we last participated in the organized group ride the folks who showed up were what I’ll call civilian cyclists: folks who were avid riders who rode hard on the weekends, but not hammer-heads who train all week long, race on the weekends, and use rides like these to fill in the gaps.  We were able to hang with that group for the entire ride which made for a nice outing. Sadly, we weren’t able to make it a regular thing.

Well, when we arrived at the starting point yesterday imagine my surprise when with few exceptions all of the folks who showed up were 30 to early 50 something guys with $4k racing bikes who looked very serious about their cycling.  There were one or two riders who, along with us, didn’t fit the bill as hammerheads:  we were likely the oldest folks there and of course the only people on a tandem.  The guys were all pretty nice and few chatted us up before the start.  There was a glimmer of hope that we’d be able to hang with them for a few miles before getting shelled out the back, but it was just a glimmer.

Once we rolled out of the parking lot and hit the road the pace quickly jumped to 18-20 mph during the warm-up and that glimmer of hope quickly began to fade as it cranked up to the low 20’s.  I think we found ourselves getting dropped just after the 2nd or 3rd mile as the group had a tendency to make hard accelerations when they hit the climbs.

We weren’t the slowest riders, as there was one gentleman who got dropped during the first 1/4 mile who knew all of the short cuts, i.e., we’d see him turn off behind us and then show up coming in on a cross street a few minutes later.  There was also another rider who was sitting on the back of the group who didn’t quite look like he was able to ride at the level of the other riders who eventually got dropped.  One of the regular riders, perhaps even one of the current ride leaders, fell back to shepherd us along as it is billed as a no-drop ride.  We told him to go on as we knew the route and had a map, but he politely suggested that he was nursing a bad knee and didn’t plan on riding hard.  He ended up guiding us and one other rider to the store stop at 19 miles.

As we approached the store stop Debbie and I decided that neither of us really needed to stop and waved at our guide and the rest of the group as we by-passed the store and continued on to make it a non-stop 36-mile ride.  I was familiar with the route which was good as the original road markings were pretty hard to see and aside from one map check we didn’t lose our way.

Well, sort of… I somehow missed the turn back to the starting point along the Silver Comet trail and we ended up riding another 2.5 miles before I came to grips with my error.  So, all told, we ended up making it a 41.5 mile ride, about 1.5 miles than the standard route.

We rode hard over the entire route, which was the goal and purpose of attending the group ride.  As expected, we were both spent with aching legs from the higher intensity effort and I think that’s a good thing. In years past, it was ‘hanging with the single bike riders’ on group rides like these that kept us in shape and gave us the legs that let us ride with the big dogs at tandem rallies.  So, while it was a humbling experience, it did remind us why these types of rides are important.

On the down side, my sweetie was pretty much spent and aside from getting to the nail salon for a noon appointment, she used the rest of the day to recover.  I fought off the urge to “chill” by immediately jumping into my weekend chores: cutting the lawn and other yard work under the hot noon-day sun, oil changes for my BMW R1100S commuter motorcycle and the black Harley-Davidson Wide Glide that doesn’t see all that much use these days. I followed up the oil change on the Harley with a trip to buy new rain gear for my daily motorcycle commute as my 7-year old gear didn’t quite get the job done on Friday when I rode home in a pretty strong thunderstorm.  Thankfully I’d elected to dress down on Friday and didn’t end up with soaked suit pants and a big dry-cleaning bill.

We ended the afternoon with a stout batch of frosty Margaritas before heading off to dinner at our usual place with our usual friends.  The evening was spent back at the house relaxing on the breezeway.

A good day, to be sure!

Posted in Bloggishnish, Health & Fitness | 3 Comments

Tandem Time in Tennessee over the 4th of July Holiday

Intro & Getting Ready For the Trip To Tennessee

Regular readers may recall that Debbie’s employer shuts down for a week at Christmas and around the 4th of July as a way of managing production workforce efficiency during what would normally be weeks with low productivity due to personal leaves of absence for holiday vacations.  Last year we did a vacation at home for ½ of this same week and then headed down to Key West for the last four days.

10502455_736732689698149_197510544094218948_nThis year we split the week three ways with 3 days spent visiting my folks in Pennsylvania, then two days back at home and the final four days dedicated to a motorcycle trip to Tennessee for some down time and tandem cycling with friends at “Club Fred”… aka, a freeloader weekend!

The visit to Pennsylvania was a bit of a whirlwind trip in that we made the 11-hour / 772-mile drive up on Saturday and arrived around 5:00pm then headed back home at 6:30pm on Monday, arriving back home after an “all-nighter” around 5:30am.  I got about 3 hours of sleep before diving into the post trip chores on Tuesday.  Wednesday was a busy day in that I needed to have a new rear tire installed on our Harley-Davidson Road King, aka, “Blue” along with getting in a tandem ride, doing some yard work and packing for the trip to Tennessee.

The packing was made a bit more interesting in that we’d taking our take-apart tandem with us in our Bushtec motorcycle trailer.  Hauling the tandem around with the motorcycle was an idea that came to me during our drive over to Cullman, Alabama for last year’s Southern Tandem Rally in September and it was the primary motivation for finding the used Bushtec trailer.  However, up and until this trip, the Bushtec had only been pressed into service for non-cycling trips to Daytona, Panama City Beach and Nashville, Tennessee.

With a fresh rear tire on ‘Blue’ and our tandem ride completed, I quickly knocked down the Calfee into a semi-compact state for transporting in the trailer.


The level of disassembly is far less than is needed for putting it into suitcases for air travel:

  • the wheels come off and go into two separate wheel bags;
  • the timing chain comes off and goes into a small storage bag (no mess with wax lube);
  • the stoker’s section top and bottom tubes are removed with the S&S couplings to create two major frame sections and those two tubes along with the frame pump go in a special bag that I made out of marine vinyl;
  • the rear section goes into a large protective marine vinyl bag that I made  with everything else still attached, e.g., cranks, pedals, stoker’s saddle with tool bag & rear tail light still in place; and
  • the captain’s saddle and stoker bars come off, but the rest of the front section goes into another large protective bag without any further disassembly.
  • That’s it… about 5 minutes to take apart another 5 minutes to pack in the protective bags and then into the trailer it all goes, along with duffle bags that hold our cycling clothing, street clothes and other personal items.


Thursday, July 3rd and the ride up

20140703_141439We rolled out of the driveway around 9:30am on a beautiful day with mild temperatures and mostly sunny skies and arrived at our first stop in Tellico Plains, Tennessee about 1 hour and 20 minutes later. That first stop was Kat’s deli which, IMHO, is one of the best places to eat in Tellico Plains. Our friend and host for the weekend in Tennessee, Tim, was already there eating lunch and waiting for us to arrive as he was going to join us for the scenic drive over the Cherohala Skyway to Robbinsville, North Carolina where we’d turn North and head into Maryville, Tennessee via US 129, aka. The Dragon’s Tail.

Words can’t really do these rides justice so I’ve decided to simply include a link to the composite video that I made during the scenic ride over the Skyway and through the Dragon.


patioWe arrived at Tim & Sharon’s home nestled in a cove on the Tennessee River around 3:30pm where we found our friends Eric & Linda from Atlanta and Denny & Stephanie from Chattanooga had already arrived and settled-in for a leisurely afternoon.  Shortly after we arrived our friend & frequent guest stoker on our triplet, Lisa, arrived: she’d be riding with Tim on Friday, Saturday & Sunday.  I had the trailer unpacked and the tandem built back up in about 30 minutes after we arrived,  after which we got into some serious relaxing ahead of a wonderful homemade dinner (shrimp etoufee ) on their deck that lasted well into the evening.

Friday, July 4th

Friday began with breakfast out on the patio, everyone pretty much munching on whatever they decided to bring along for breakfast.


The target mileage for Friday was around 30 as none of us had been getting in any serious cycling miles; a far cry from previous years when these get-togethers and tandem rallies were suffer-fests where we were all hammering each other into the ground.  The moderate mileage goal allowed us all to sleep in a bit before the appointed departure time of 9:00am.

Friday’s ride was very nice, even a bit cool at the start.  We rode the 30 miles without a stop and covered a lot of familiar roads from previous year’s visits and the Tennessee Tandem Rallies that Tim & Sharon hosted for 10 years.


We were back at the house before noon and had lunch by the pool while being entertained by Kylie, Tim & Sharon’s new Australia Shepherd puppy.  We spent the better part of the afternoon out on Tim & Sharon’s very luxurious pontoon boat exploring the shores of the Tennessee River and seeing how the 1% lived: many of the homes, boat houses and boats that adorn the lakeside lots are eye watering, to say the least.

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We enjoyed cocktails and another homemade dinner (chicken & steak tacos with chorizo quesadillas) out on the patio and deck next to the pool at Tim & Sharon’s home and then headed back out to the lake on the pontoon boat to watch fireworks being shot-off from homes along the lake and local communities.  There were a couple of very impressive lakeside home shows, but not so much from the surrounding communities that were visible from the lake.

We retired back to the house and pretty much everyone retired for the night before 11:00pm.

Saturday, July 5th

Saturday began like Friday with breakfast out on the patio.  Today’s ride would be something closer to 40 miles and once again we targeted 9:00am for our departure so that we’d be off the road before the hottest part of the day and back at the house around lunch time.

For Saturday’s ride I elected to capture some video from two of our three GoPro cameras, with one mounted on my handlebars facing forward and another on my helmet facing backwards.  Again, if a picture’s worth a thousand words, then this video should cover most of the important ride details, i.e., good times with great friends spent cycling in some of the most beautiful countryside you’ll find.


Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in my attempt to clear the SD cards on the two cameras that I took with us on Saturday, so the SD cards filled-up before we finished the ride, hence the unusual ending shot. The same had been true on Thursday’s motorcycle ride where the batteries died ½ way through the Tail of the Dragon. I still had more than enough video, but the closing shot was a bit contrived.  In other words, I’m still learning more about these little cameras and clearly have a lot to learn.

After left-over shrimp etoufee and tacos for lunch we headed back out on the pontoon boat to explore parts of the Tennessee River that we hadn’t covered on Friday’s tour.  Some of the homes and homesites we saw on Saturday were actually in the realm of “moderately affordable” for upper middle class types. Again, still too rich for our blood short of a lottery win, but good to see nonetheless… not that I’m a boat person, as I’m not.  I love to sail, but lake sailing is too frustrating and power boats make even our very expensive Harley-Davidson motorcycles seem like chump change by comparison, never mind the cost of boat houses, fuel and maintenance associated with ownership.

Saturday evening had us back on the patio and deck for another lovely home-made dinner, this time featuring beef tenderloin wrapped with bacon and other yummy stuff followed by an awesome New York cheesecake made by Sharon.  I was chased away from the dinner table by mosquitoes and the nagging desire to finish editing and publishing my video composite from the morning ride and that’s how I finished the evening.  No kidding, I’ve really got to either figure out how to monetize the time I spend doing on-line “stuff” and blogging or simply knock it off.  I spend way too much time looking at computers and writing for really no good reason.

Oh, and lest I forget to mention it, we were treated to the most amazing fireworks display we’d ever seen when Mariner’s Village launched into what seemed like a 10-minute long show with hundreds of air bursts going off around 9:45pm that we could see just over the tree line.

Sunday, July 6th and the ride home

I think everyone slept in a little longer on Sunday than the previous two days, but the day’s ride was only going to be about 18-miles. So, a short ride allowed for a slightly later start at 9:30.  Once again, just a delightful route and good company: sadly, Denny & Stephanie had to leave on Saturday night so it was just us along with Tim & Lisa and Eric & Linda.

The plan for lunch was actually a plan for brunch which would entail a fairly-long boat ride over to the Lakeside Tavern in Knoxville.  We thought out joining our friends, but ultimately decided that it would put us back home far too late in the early evening to work with our pre-Monday to-do list.  So, we let it be known that we’d be heading home as they headed off to the Lakeside Tavern before we started our ride.

Once we returned from the ride I had the tandem broken down and packed in about 20 minutes. It took another 30 minutes or so to shower and pack up the rest of our things in the trailer before heading off for home on ‘Blue’ around 11:00am.

We had a lovely ride home on a new route for us: Tennessee Route 68 through the Chattahoochee National Forest.  It added a good 30 minutes to our drive time but was so much more scenic than the more direct route home on US Route 411.  It also allowed us to stop for lunch at Harvest on Main in Blue Ridge which was also a nice treat.  In the interest of time I did elect to skip the more scenic but also much longer trip over Yukon Road to Jones & Burnt Mountains that would have kept us off of the 70 mph, semi-freeway known as Route 515 for 20 miles.  But, after being away from home for four days and with over 150 miles of twisty mountain roads under our belt, faster seemed to be the right choice.

We arrived back at home around 4:00pm and immediately started back with several loads of laundry while washing road grime off of ‘Blue’ and the trailer.  Debbie also had a number of phone calls to make and we finally had enough of our chores done by 7:30pm that we were able to take a break for a quick dinner at Loco Willy’s.  We split a burger, had a couple margaritas and just enjoyed the moment before heading back home to get ready for the return to work in the morning.

It was truly a great weekend and being able to combine motorcycling with tandem cycling made for a very special vacation experience that  we’d like to repeat in the future.

Posted in Events, Motorcycling Events & Trips, Tandem Folks | 2 Comments

New Entries At Riding Two-Up

369252Recently posted at Riding Two-Up: Seems like I missed the month of May so my apologies if they are repeats. We should have a nice tandem-related entry coming after this weekend as we’ll be doing our first motorcycle trip with the tandem in tow stuffed in our Bushtec trailer.

Posted in Cross Post: Riding Two-Up, Motorcycle / Equipment | 5 Comments

June PEACHES Ride from Alpharetta, Georgia….


The ubiquitous tandem cycling “selfie”

How about that; we’ve done two Georgia Tandem Club (aka, PEACHES) monthly rides in a row!!

Today’s “June Ride” began out in Alpharetta, Georgia and was hosted by Steve & April and Scott & Linda, noting this was their “home turf.”   I believe there were a total of 9 tandem teams on hand for the ride:

  • (1) Scott & Linda, (2) Steve & April, (3) Roger S. & Eve, (4) Jose & Sherry, (5) Steve & Eva, (6) Randy & Claudia., (7) Roger B. & daughter Heidi, (8) Tom & Vicki, and (9) yours truly… Mark & Debbie.

Six did the 42-mile option and two did the 32-mile option.

The ride start was scheduled for 8:30am, so my goal was to be on the road by 7:15am which would have us in Alpharetta by 8:00am – 8:15am as we had to make a stop along the way.  Well, we made great time… really great time.  We were at the ride start about 50 minutes ahead of schedule which gave us plenty of time to go and find a mini-mart where we could pick up a couple of bottles of water: somehow, we failed to bring our cycling water bottles with us!  No big deal, but I was surprised to see that the once plentiful selection of bottled water and sports drinks with flip tops that were the same size as a cycling water bottle were nowhere to be seen.

We rolled into the parking lot in front of our lunch stop — Mellow Mushroom — just after 8:00am and could see that we weren’t quite the first to arrive.  Another couple appeared to have arrived just before we did.  We “chilled” in the truck for 15 minutes or so before other teams began to arrive, which was our signal to get our own act together.  I decided to pull off the mud guards and luggage rack for today’s ride as the rain wasn’t supposed to come in until after 2:00pm… that and I still have to “dial-in” the SKS RaceBlade Long front mud guard now that I can install it in place of my old modified mud guard that we’ve been riding with for a couple of weeks. The old one will occasionally get jostled out of alignment on a hard bump and then needs to be adjusted… not something I can do from a moving bike so not quite optimum for someone like me who doesn’t like to stop if I don’t have to.

20140621_082940After a very brief rider’s meeting we were off.  The ride took us North from the Windward Parkway section of Alpharetta into Milton and other parts of Cherokee and Forsythe Counties on some lovely winding, hilly and mostly shade-covered roads.

wallace_homeThe homes out in the Milton along Freemanville Road area were, well, spectacular.  Case in point, the 28,347 square foot, 4 bedroom, 8 bathroom home owned by former UPS President Ronald Wallace. For context, take note of the “normal-sized” homes that next door.  There was another near castle-size home that caught my eye with its steeply pitched roof line and towering chimneys; very impressive…. but thankfully not my style!


The ride itself was really a good mix of terrain; mostly rolling with a few long grades and just one real “grunt” of a climb where I think I saw 18% on my computer relative to the grade at the steepest point. The weather conditions were also pretty much perfect for a bicycle ride.  The early start meant we’d get to enjoy lots of shade on the tree-lined roads before the sun got too high and there was also a nice breeze.  It would get a bit steamy sitting at stoplights where there was no shade, but those were few and far between.  We made one store stop out in Union Hill where I snapped a couple of photos…. noting I’m still learning how to use my new phone.  Sometimes I think I’d do better to just take a “real camera” along!  Our friend Roger B. and his oldest daughter Heidi patiently waited for a portrait as I fumbled with the camera phone.

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We did our best to ride a social pace but seemed to keep finding ourselves “stuck in the middle” by ourselves with a couple of more spirited  riders out ahead of us and the social riding pros behind up and until the store stop.  After the store stop we decided to settle into a pace that worked for us and after making a few adjustments we collected two other teams — Randy & Claudia and Tim & Vicki  — who we finished the ride with.

Lunch at the Mellow Mushroom after the ride was quite nice. Everyone shared a massively long collection of tables and chairs out on the shade-covered patio with a nice breeze blowing.  It gave us a good time to chat with friends before making the 50-minute drive back home.

A great day on the bike with great friends, to be sure.

Posted in Club & Org Notices, Events, Tandem Folks | Leave a comment

SKS Customer Support… Awesome!

As the title of this blog entry suggests, I can sum up my impressions of SKS customer support in just one word: Awesome!

Regular readers may recall that we had a bit of an issue with our new SKS RaceBlade Long during their inaugural weekend at the Georgia Tandem Rally; quoting from my 7 June blog entry entitled SKS Mud Guard Follow-Up:

Before Saturday’s ride I modified the bracket a bit but it proved to be only a marginal improvement and the fender was rubbing again.  However, I made the mistake of leaving it out there too long and about 5 miles into our ride while descending a rather “swift” section of road with 20 tandems on our rear wheel I heard a couple rattles and then saw the fender piece shoot of the front of the bike as it was clipped by the front tire.  As you’d expect, the trajectory landed the little fender in our own path and I’m fairly confident it was rolled-over several times by the tandems that were following us. Needless to say, I decided the risks posed by attempting to stop and retrieve the little part didn’t seem worth the reward and that was that.

As noted in the blog entry, I sent off a note to SKS via their “contact us link” on the Corporate SKS website wherein I asked if the little fender extension was available as a spare part and included a short summary of how our first one parted company with the triplet during the ride.

A few days later I received a nice note from Lee at SKS USA in Olney, Illinois asking us to verify our mailing address and what color mud guard we had; a replacement would be on the way!  Three days later….


Can’t ask for better support than that!  Great products AND great support, it’s so nice when your instincts about a company are right.

I think we have at least five sets of SKS mud guards here at the house: two sets of the standard SKS mud guards that are 10 years old; a set of the original RaceBlade “strap-on” mud guards; the SKS Longboards; and, the SKS RaceBlade Long.  I think the quick release mud deflectors for our off-road bikes may also be SKS.  The RaceBlade Long’s are definitely my favorites given their quick-release feature that allows you to quickly install or remove them as needed in mere seconds leaving only the quick-release mounting tabs attached to the bike: those also come off in mere moments.  Given all of the rain we’ve been having, I’m almost inclined to leave the mud guards on full time!

Posted in Technology & Equip. | Leave a comment

Event Report: Florida Panther’s Vero Beach Weekend

Once again we are pleased to share a Florida PANTHERS post-event report by Kathy Foster.

panther2 panther1

Several times a year, the Florida PANTHERS gather at a Florida locale for a laid-back weekend of riding and socializing where no one has to run the show and everyone gets to ride. Eleven tandem teams met in Vero Beach June 13-15 for just such a weekend.

Couples, a mix of first-timers and old-timers, came from Tampa, Daytona, Melbourne, Miami, Orlando, The Villages and various points in between. Headquarters this year was the Sea Turtle Inn, a family-run place a few blocks from the oceanfront, and many dollars less than the Holiday Inn, which handled the overflow.

Saturday at 8:30 a.m. we gathered at the Sea Turtle where club president Bob Thompson handed out ride maps.  Then we were off on a beautiful ride up A1A. Members Hugh and Laura A., who live in Vero, said the little traffic we encountered would die out after a few miles and they were right. The sky was overcast and just before reaching the rest rooms at MM 14.9 near Sebastian Inlet Park, we felt a few drops. Since the route was straight up AIA and back, riders were free to turn back whenever they felt “half-tired,” as Bob said.

Eight couples pedaled on to the convenience store/Subway at MM 22, seven turning in. Jim and Sharon of Daytona kept going and when the rain unleashed they turned around, eventually linking up with three homeward-bound couples.

Paul and Jeanne K. and Meg and Michele U. had planned to do the full 58 miles. “It (the rain) was getting to the point that maybe we should (turn aroud)   but then it stopped,” Michelle said. Michelle classified the ride as “wet and wild, keep calm and ride on.”

In the evening, we gathered at the oceanfront restaurant adjoining the Holiday Inn, topping that off with a walk down the beach or down the sidewalk a few blocks to Kilwin’s ice cream, run by a Vero Beach tandeming couple.

Next morning we headed south down AIA, rewarded with a well-paved bike lane and frequent views of the ocean. Then we crossed bridges over the Intracoastal and the Indian River and headed back on a junglely  road. Those of us at the back of the pack took Hugh A. up on his offer to detour and see some Old Florida vistas that they’ll include on next year’s route.

Nancy R. of Dunedin called Vero her “favorite away-bike weekend. Being from New Jersey, I’m used to biking around the ocean, but it’s not blue like it is here.’’

Posted in Club & Org Notices, Events, Tandem Folks | Leave a comment

Post Script: Tandems & Forks…

Back in March I wrote a piece on tandems and composite forks after I’d been asked a question about forks by a reader.  The question was prompted by the reader’s impressions after seeing an article about carbon forks and tandem written by Dan Towle, owner of R&E Cycles and the Rodriquez, Bushnell, Trillium and Erickson brands under which R&E builds tandems.

Back in April Dan and I shared a few Emails about tandems and forks where he shared some addition observations about the various brands of composite forks he’s had experience with.  He also pointed me towards a follow-up / side-bar article he wrote where he recounted how issues with a pretty well-respected brand of composite fork specified by a customer over the objections of R&E soured a customer’s impressions of their brand new, custom Rodriguez tandem.

To Dan’s credit, R&E truly stands behind the bikes it builds and sells and will buy-back bicycles sold to customers who truly were disappointed with the final product.  That business approach is golden from a consumer standpoint when dealing with a well-established business since buying back bikes would quickly bring a business to its knees both financially and by word on the street if it became a frequent occurance. Instead, that type of business model drives a passionate pursuit of excellence, careful attention to customer needs, adherence to sound design standards and the use of proven components.  Speaking of which, and back to the subject of tandems and forks….

I wasn’t surprised to hear that one of the fork brands that we’re very familiar with was one R&E found to be acceptable, but also “not infallible.”  In addition to being a less than rock solid fork that trades off a bit of stability for lighter weight there have purportedly been a number of these forks that developed cracks and required replacement even in light of a robust quality process at the factory.  True Temper got out of the composite fork business several years ago so it’s almost a moot point from a new tandem perspective.  However, for anyone who has a tandem with an Alpha Q X2 I still recommend regular inspection and immediate attention to any new creaks, squeaks or changes in handling.  R&E, on the other hand and as a manufacturer, is far more conservative and recommends that any carbon fork be replaced once the warranty period has expired: a pretty expensive proposition for the consumer to be sure.  The latter certainly makes a strong argument to follow R&E’s recommendation for fitting lightweight steel forks instead of composite forks to its tandem customers.

When it comes to tandem-rated forks, that’s also a mixed-bag.  As already discussed, tandem-rated is more or less a marketed phrase that’s not supported by any industry standards for durability, performance or safety.  That’s not to say that the companies who design and market them discard consumer safety and don’t apply their own internal design standards and test to ensure their forks can support the load limits they attach to those tandem ratings; I’m confident they do.  However, as we’ve seen with the tandem rated Alpha Q forks, the handling qualities are a bit harder to build a standard around since the riding habits, handling expectations and physical dimensions of tandem teams play such a huge part in defining how a tandem handles and/or is perceived to handle.

I was a bit surprised to hear the Wound Up forks didn’t perform as well as I’d expected, at least based on R&E’s customer feedback.  Early on the Wound Up forks didn’t seem like a great option as they weren’t all that much lighter than a really good, lightweight steel fork.  However, the one tandem we rode with one and feedback from folks who rode tandems with the Wound Up forks handled more predictably than similar tandems with Alpha Q’s: Alpha Q’s are definitely an acquired taste.

The Reynolds Ouzo Pro was a fork that did pass muster and I have to concur. At first, they weren’t all that light compared to the Alpha Q’s, but against all other offerings they were both lighter and far more robust.  In fact, our triplet is fitted with a 1.5″ steerer-size Ouzo Pro and while it’s probably not something I’d want to have on the triplet with three full-size adults, it handles our sub 400lb team weight quite well.  We also have a 1.25″ steerer Ouzo Pro tandem fork I’ve used on our Calfee and Erickson tandems as well and setting aside the very conservative fork geometry, it tracked quite well in the corners and did not deflect side to side the way our Alpha Q’s do when we’re up and out of the saddle on climbs. Sadly, Reynolds also exited the composite bicycle component market which left a huge gap for anyone looking to acquire a robust composite fork with conservative rake.

In closing, I think Dan and I are actually on the same page when it comes to the need to closely inspect composite forks on a regular basis.  Although somewhat in summary form, I addressed my annual check-up for forks in a multi-part article on tandem maintenance I published on the TCA’s website back in February:

Fork Checklist & Tips:

As you might expect, everything mentioned for the frame also applies to the fork with just a couple of added considerations:

  • forkcrackFor tandems that see a lot of use I recommend removing the fork at least once a year for deep cleaning and inspection, in conjunction with headset bearing maintenance.  For lightly used tandems, consider every two to three years.  For rarely ridden tandems, at least every five years.
  • You’ll want to pay particular attention to the steerer tube, fork crown and junction where they meet, especially for composite forks.  Other areas to pay attention to include the drop-outs which, on composite forks, are typically bonded into the ends of the composite fork tubes.  If your fork has bosses for cantilever / linear-pull / V-brakes, those also warrant a close inspection.
  • If you think you see what appears to be a crack developing take some well lit, detailed photos and send them to your builder or the component’s manufacturer for a preliminary assessment.If you happen to have a tandem that is fitted with a suspension fork that will need some specific attention. For air or air/oil/gas shocks, be sure to inspect the seals for leaks and to make sure any Schrader pump valves are fully seated.  If you have an oil dampened fork, when’s the last time you changed the fork oil?  Also, be sure to check all the bolts, fittings, clamps and steerer for any signs of fatigue. Those older Cannondale FR4Ts and many other older suspension forks from the late 90?s and early ’00?s bear close monitoring. A fork failure on a tandem ridden on technical single track could easily land both the captain and stoker in a hospital with serious injuries!
  • Again, and as noted for the frame, most builders, their fork suppliers and after market fork manufacturers have pretty comprehensive replacement policies where original owners can typically buy a replacement component at dealer cost or less if a part has prematurely failed from fatigue during normal use.

As a business R&E is clearly more conservative with respect to when a fork should be replaced (e.g., once it’s outside the warranty period) than I am as an enthusiast.  However, that said, I’m often taken aback by the abysmal condition I see tandems in at tandem rallies and can see why as tandems fitted with composite forks continue to age and pass from owner to owner the risk of undetected cracks or dis-bonds that could lead to serious failures could increase. So, perhaps R&E’s benchmark may be the better one to use: when in doubt and out of warranty pass on that used tandem with the composite fork or consider a fork update if you have one and aren’t confident in your abilities to routinely inspect it for signs that might indicate it’s integrity has been compromised.

Bottom Line: Tandems are amazing machines that deal with incredible stress and loads using equally amazing, lightweight materials.  So long as the components made with those materials maintain their original design strength and integrity they will continue to deliver predictable, safe performance.  However, at the first sign that something’s amiss immediate attention is required.  Remember, there are at least two people who’s safety and well-being could quickly be put at serious risk if any critical part of a tandem were to fail and there are quite a few critical parts on a tandem: frame, fork, wheels, ties, handlebars, seat posts and brakes come immediately to mind.

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