What a Great Ride! 15 Miles of Smiles….

20140928_122020Following  the tweaks that Alex Nutt and I made to our Ventana on Saturday, Debbie and I headed back to the trails at Allatoona Creek today to see if the hoped-for improvements were achieved: they were, and then some!

It was an absolutely GREAT day on the trail.  The tandem’s fit and handling were vastly improved and that made all of the difference in the world to both me and Debbie; let me explain.  Even though we haven’t been doing much off-road riding in the last 6 years, we did a bunch from 1998 – 2008.  One of the things that Debbie has always keyed off of was how confident I seemed out on the trail.  If she felt that I was having a good day and was on my game, her confidence level went way up and that would allow her to relax and enjoy the ride.  However, if I was having a tough day on the bike and seemed apprehensive then she’d tense up and that would usually make matters worse, making for a really bad day on the bike.

Well, after making the changes to my fit, increasing the steering trail and changing out the brakes the Ventana felt and handled better than it or it’s predecessor ever had!  It was a “point and shoot” kind of handling where I could pretty much put the front wheel anywhere I wanted to on the trail, do near stall very tight turns through the narrow tree-lined essess, easily set-up for technical sections and then hammer up and over the obstacles without a worry about the front wheel mis-tracking or getting twitchy.  And, on top of all of that, hitting the brakes was no longer something I dreaded as the new Avid BB7’s were whisper quiet and smooth: something that I hadn’t ever experienced on this Ventana.  Moreover, as I continued to use the brakes the pads and rotors began to bed-in and the stopping power was really coming into its own by the end of the ride.

So, how was Debbie’s day on the tandem?  I should probably note that Debbie was the first one to talk about heading off to the trails on Sunday.  I’d hoped she’d be ready to head out again — weather willing — and that’s why I was anxious to get the Ventana ‘tweaked’ as I was certain that with a few changes I could vastly improve the quality of the bike’s fit, handling and braking.

However, imagine my surprise when out of the blue Debbie called our son Wesley on Saturday morning before we even did our road tandem ride to ask if he wanted to join us for some off-road riding on Sunday!!!  Yet another reason I love this woman so much…  When she gives something new a try and  likes it, she’s all in.  Riding off-road might as well have been something new given how long we’ve been off the trails, but if today’s ride was any indication she’s now as enthusiastic as she ever was!

20140928_105747Although the day started off gloomy and a bit cooler than previous weekends as fall quickly begins to settle-in, Debbie was still the first one to bring up heading to the trails: “So, how about we head to the trail around 10:30?”   You betcha…  I didn’t blink before I was out in the garage topping off the rear shock and then stuffing the Ventana in the back of the Toyota Tundra and filling up Camelbak’s.  Even though the Ventana will fit in the back of the Tundra with the front wheel removed and one of the bar-ends turned down, since the trail is just 5 miles from the house I’ve found I can cut down our time spent at the trailhead buy simply laying the tandem on its left side with the front end sticking out of the bed and resting on the tailgate.  I throw a strap across the bike “just in case” as I’d hate to see the tandem jettisoned from the truck if — God forbid — we had a collision going to or from the trailhead: no sense adding insult to injury!

Getting back to Debbie’s ride, while she was definitely enjoying my new-found comfort and confidence with the Ventana, she thought I’d done something to either her saddle height or the tandem’s rear suspension as she said she felt like she was bouncing again.  I thought about all of the things we did to the tandem and for the life of me I couldn’t think of anything that we’d touched which would explain the change she was feeling.  She asked if I’d checked the air pressure before we started: I had. It had dropped to 240 psi since last Sunday so I’d topped it back off at 270 psi before leaving the house.  I think we’d probably ridden 1 of the 4 miles on Turtle Back loop when I finally realized what I’d probably done.  I told Debbie to reach down to the bottom side of the rear shock and see if the blue lever that controlled the shock’s compression was pointed to the left (climbing) or in the middle (trail riding): it was in the middle.  After she moved it to the left — which minimizes the shock’s movement — she was back in her comfort zone.  She just has a hard time with the full-suspension movement and prefers to minimize the bobbing that comes with a less than perfect off-road pedal stroke.

With the rear shock sorted out it was all systems go.  After finishing the 4-mile Turtle Back loop I asked what she’d like to do next; call it another successful day, do a second loop around Turtle Back with the extra, more technical 1.3 mile spur or ????   She opted for ????, which was to go and explore Mason’s Bridge Loop.

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Of course, to get to Mason’s Bridge we had a good 1.5 miles of double track / gravel road to cover, and then about 3/4’s of the 1-mile Rusty Bucket beginner’s loop — yeah, beginner unless  you’re trying to negotiate tight turns between closely spaced trees on a 7-foot long tandem!  We also ‘discovered’ a very nice single track trail I didn’t know existed that connected the Rusty Bucket loop to the trail head for Mason’s Bridge loop.  In the past, I’d only used the .5-mile double track / gravel road to transit between the two single track loops.  The single track loop was really quite nice, very reminiscent of some sections on the Dwelling Loop up at Sixes Road.

The Mason’s Bridge Loop had a lot more roller-coaster sections than I remembered and a couple of very technical features, including a ramped tree crossing that was not negotiable via a tandem unless you were willing to break your timing chain and dent your boom tube! Yeah, we dismounted and climbed over that one on foot.  However, we were able to negotiate the other two.

Other than having the rear shock set to be too soft for Debbie’s preference, a creaky eccentric and a little bit of rear rotor rub on the back corner of the caliper body, it was a perfect day on the tandem.  Well, Ok. I clipped a tree with Debbie’s handlebar and her wrist got smacked by the tree in the process.

While reveling in the joy of being back in the wood on a tandem, Debbie confessed that she had truly been of a mindset where she would have been happy if I’d simply given the Ventana away; she was “done” with off-road riding.  However, today was one of those days when we both really appreciated what it is about off-road riding that makes it so different from road riding, different in a good way.  There is no such thing as ‘tempo riding’ or ‘day dreaming'; the tempo is always changing and you never take your mind off of the trail, lest you become one with a tree!  It’s a full body and mind work-out and we both liked that!

Anyway, off-road tandeming is definitely back for us!  I get the feeling that we’ll be splitting our weekend riding up with a road ride one day and off-road the next.  The Ventana should be good-to-go for the foreseeable future.  I adjusted the eccentric after the ride and did a little work on the rear brake to eliminate the rotor rub as well.

It’s a bit of a double-edge sword in that while we have a couple of really great motorcycle weekends coming up in October along with the Southern Tandem Rally, that means we’ll only have about one Sunday when we can hit the trail on the Ventana!

More to follow….

Posted in Bloggishnish, Off-Road Tandems | 2 Comments

New Entries At Riding Two-Up

369252Recently posted at Riding Two-Up: It was an interesting month for the big bikes.  My trust BMW was possessed by a poltergeist and my local service department kept me in suspense for a week before providing a diagnosis. The big Harley, Blue, got no respect from one of our local dealers so we had to move our business to a different dealer’s service department.

 

Posted in Cross Post: Riding Two-Up, Motorcycle / Equipment | Leave a comment

A Trip to MTB Tandems & Tweaking the Ventana…

As noted in my post from last weekend, after a triumphant return to off-road riding with Miss Debbie, our 2002 Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas (ECdM) definitely needed a few adjustments following its 4-year hiatus.

#1 on the list was raising and pulling back the handlebars.  Twelve years ago when Alex built-up our 2002 ECdM — which, coincidentally, was the first full-up tandem to be sold by Alex and MTBTandems.com — I was apparently 12-years younger and riding with a much more aggressive posture.  The ‘Superdust’ 2002 Ventana ECdM was a replacement / upgrade from our 1997/00 ‘High Zoot Translucent Red’ ECdM which had replaced our ‘Sunrise Orange’ 1998 Cannondale MT3000.  As you can see in the photos below, the captain’s handlebars are well below he saddle on all three bikes: I guess there was a time when that worked well for me.  However, on last Sunday’s outing I was definitely feeling way too stretched out, bent over and had too much weight on my hands.

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2002 Ventana, with Stratos S5 fork, SRAM X0 gearing, daVinci tandem crankset ,Chris King/Aeroheat AT wheelset and Hope Enduro hydraulic discs.  When our friend Alex Nutt decided to get into the off-road tandem business we decided to take the plunge and do a full bike upgrade to support him with his first tandem sale & build. We had Sherwood Gibson at Ventana replicate the geometry of our ’97 frame as the current smaller frame geometry had changed to something that I didn’t find aesthetically all that pleasing.  Sherwood and I were on the phone talking frame geometry while he was building the frame, that’s how custom this bike was.  In fact, Sherwood even signed the frame for me, just to give it that really custom touch.

ventana

1997 Ventana frame built up in 2000 with Stratos FR4 fork, Shimano XT, daVinci crankset, Hope BULB / Aeroheat AT wheelset & Hope 04DH hydraulic discs.  I found the frame for sale for $1000 on some obscure bulletin board during Christmas of 1999. It had been bought at a UPS lost freight sale by a pawn shop in South Dakota.  It was shipped to a buyer and lost in route by UPS and was in cosmetically rough condition.  A lot of polishing, new decals and a new rear disc compatible swing arm made it good as new and built up in May of ’00.  I wanted to update the wheels, gearing and brakes and decided to do a complete bike upgrade when our friend Alex decided to enter the off-road tandem business.  This was sold to a couple in Sacramento, California in April 2002; however, UPS lost the wheels and fork en route.  Me thinks this frame was cursed.

cdale

1998 Cannondale MT3000 with CODA HeadShok Moto FR fork, SACH Gripshift, Sugino crankset, Coda-Hugi / Sun Rhinolite wheelset and Shimano XT V-brakes.  This one was acquired lightly used from a gentleman in Pennsylvania in Dec. ’98.  I stumbled over a Ventana frame that was a deal just too good to pass up and this bike was sold to a couple in New Hampshire in July ’00.  To be completely honest, I really wish we’d have kept this tandem. It was a ripper on cross country trails. Very easy to ride and handle with it’s low center of gravity vs. the very high ground clearance Ventanas which can be a handful.

Therefore, the first order of business was to figure out what stem and riser-bar combination would deliver a better riding position.  Alex had a Thomson stem that was 10mm shorter than the one I had on our Ventana and a set of FSA XC280 40mm mid-rise bars that we used to pull back and raise up my riding position.  The plan is to ride it with the FSA XC280 set-up on a temporary basis to see if that will work or if I still need a more upright solution.  Just testing it in the parking lot outside of MTBTandems.com’s shop in Canton, Georgia, it seemed to be a lot better.

DSCN0484

DSCN0483The next order of business was eliminating the noise and chatter from the brake system: chattering brakes don’t work well and the squeal is just… well, not what you want every time you touch your brakes.  As you can see in the photos above, to the right and below, we ended up just eliminating the entire brake system.  Yup, those way-cool, super-gonzo, bomb-proof 4-piston hydraulic Hope Enduro front & rear brakes are now in a box along with the also very cool Easton C2 composite handlebar that was replaced by the aluminum riser bar.   While the Magura MT7 and MT6 hydraulic brakes were quite tempting, for our immediate needs my gut told me the mechanical Avid BB7’s with the Single Digit 7 levers would more than adequate and… well, simple, quiet and more affordable. Out back, in addition to switching over to the BB7 mechanical (left), we also upped the rotor from 185mm to 203mm which completed the scorched-Earth approach to riding the Ventana of the Hope brake system. As to why there was a 185mm on the rear to begin with, I’m pretty sure 185mm worked out to be the largest size caliper Hope (right) made for a rear installation back in 2002.

DSCN0485 DSCN0047I also rotated the eccentric 180° to lower the crank axle a half inch which, in turn, allowed me to drop my saddle height another half inch: yet another way of changing that bar height to saddle height differential on a tandem.

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To add more steering trail and firm up the steering I raised the triple clamps back to the top of the stanchions which relaxed the head tube angle and increased the steering trail.  Yes Alex, you were right… I’d originally focused on the effective fork rake. Alex correctly pointed out what was happening to the head tube angle as the fork stanchions move up or down in the clamps.

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If the weather gods are nice and hold off on the rain, Miss Debbie has said we’ll hit the trails this morning after 10am when the bow hunters are done.  It will be interesting to see how all of these changes have worked out.  Keeping my fingers crossed that we have another good day on the trail.

 

Posted in Off-Road Tandems, Pimpin' for our Friends, Tandem Folks, Technology & Equip. | Leave a comment

It was a wet one today; SKS mud-guards worked great!

As usual, the weather forecast we watched on TV wasn’t even close to what we were seeing outside of the kitchen window this morning.  However, given the forecast for Sunday wasn’t all that inspiring we decided to venture out onto damp streets in the hope that the early morning mist would subside.

However, to be on the safe side I opted to put our diNotte headlight and our SKS RaceBlade Long mud guards on the Calfee; it was the right call.
20140927_104710 20140927_104655This was actually the first real test of the SKS RaceBlade Longs and I must say, they truly are a better mouse trap.  The mounting tabs were already on the Calfee front & rear brake bolts so installing the mud guards was a quick and easy process that took all of about 5 minutes, tops.  The mud guards clip onto the mounting tabs and then, with the wheels installed on the bike, I removed the skewers, took out the springs and then reinstalled the skewers with the mud guard mounting tabs laced through the skewers.  Pretty slick.

As for managing the wet roads, the mist didn’t subside and actually turned into a light rain during our morning ride, so we really got to see how the mud guards handled all of that road slop. The judgement, as good as anything we’ve ever used including “real” mud guards.  The coverage, while not 100% — there are gaps at the brake calipers and the rear mud guards front blade doesn’t go all the way down to the back of the bottom bracket — the protection they offered was easily 98%.  The front fender kept my feet and legs relative free from water coming off the road and there wasn’t any spray coming off the front of the upper blade’s leading edge.  Debbie reported having no spray from the rear wheel whatsoever.  Just an outstanding design and vast improvement over the original Race Blades.

Having the headlight on also provided some added piece of mind riding in the mist and light rain. We always have our diNotte taillight on, but that front light is something I hold in reserve for early morning, late evening and rainy days.  Can’t say enough nice things about the diNotte lights: they were all second hand and have served us well for many years.

 

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Odds and Ends I’ve Been Meaning to Mention…

Lurking & Scanning But Not Engaging All That Often

Someone from one of the tandem discussion forums I used to frequent — well, frequent is probably and understatement as I have over 7,000 posts on that site alone — sent a very nice personal note this past week that made note of my absence from the forum.  I sometimes wonder where I found the time as some of those postings were about as detailed as my blog entries!  However, as was the case with Tandem@Hobbes where I probably have over 15,000 entries in the archives, I think I reached a point where I no longer was learning much that enhanced my understanding of tandems and tandeming, original reason I searched out the forums and also saw the lion’s share of postings moving in the arcane instead of being focused on sharing information that helped folks solve problems, learn techniques or otherwise help folks who were new to tandems discover and get more enjoyment from their machines.

So, while I don’t often post anything to Hobbes or BikeForums I do still scan over all of the subjects that hit my Email (Hobbes) or appear at the top of the tandem forum (BikeForum) just to see what’s on folks minds with an eye for new information or someone who appears to need a life-line to enrich their tandem experience.

Otherwise, and as you can see by this entry, my apparent need to reduce my thoughts to writing just seem to be easier to satisfy with the blog entries: free form, if you will.  Who knows, perhaps if and when I finally move into pensioner status I’ll have some sort of epiphany or second career that launches me back into the forums.

Can a Tandem Fly?  Only if the Folks Riding It Have Big Brass Ones….

Back in August, our friend Henry Able out in Bend, Oregon sent out a set of photos from an epic tandem jump during the “Blitz 2 the Barrel” race in Bend.  He teamed up with Lev Stryker for the jump; not a first but not something you see every day either:

JumpPhotobyRobKerr-1 LevStryker_HenryAbel_JUMP-1

You can find more details and the full photo set at the Pine Mountain Sports website by clicking HERE.

offroadtandemI’m reminded of another epic tandem jump from the late 90’s where Todd Shusterman was captaining with Tandem & Family Cycling Magazine’s Greg Shepard in the second seat aboard a daVinci Symbiosis full-suspension tandem.  It was an awesome sight captured by T&FC photo journalist David Morgan.  However, what was captured was the less than perfect landing and Greg’s broken collar-bone!  Well, at least I think it was the collar-bone.

I think I have a photo somewhere of Sherwood Gibson + 1 getting some big air off a jump on a BMX track aboard a yellow Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas.  It may be in the Double Forte archives as it was his way of providing an endorsement that a certain single crown suspension fork was more than adequate for off-road tandem use.

Cuddlebike…

I received an Email from a gentleman named Jürgen Brömme the other day. Jürgen has apparently developed and holds a patent on what he calls the Cuddlebike.

Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 9.33.01 AMThe Cuddlebike reminds me of some other short wheel base tandems that have been around, going all the way back to the late 1800’s, although most of those feature independent saddles that can be adjusted to give each rider the proper saddle height for efficient pedal strokes.

orient-tandem-pacer  6238031606_4d24cdc8a7_z bibici buddybike

It’s a novel idea for a fun way to take a very leisurely ride, seated truly in tandem in much the same way that you do on classic motorcycle like my old ’77 Honda CB550F SuperSport.

n1459095890_30246448_5509689That back-to-back seating arrangement was quite nice on the Honda, but then again… we didn’t have to pedal.

 

 

Posted in Bloggishnish, Off-Road Tandems, Technology & Equip. | Leave a comment

Weekend Wrap-Up

Dragon_31Aug09It was a working Friday for me, so the weekend was just Saturday and Sunday.  Our Friday night routine has changed a bit since I last wrote about it and after 12 years of spending our Friday nights at On The Border, we’ve found ourselves back at another old local favorite where we used to have dinner on Saturdays, Olde Towne Tavern & Grille.  It’s been a good change for us and our friends!

SATURDAY

We got to bed early on Friday and that allowed us to get up and going on a bunch of house work that had been queued up.  After a full morning we were able to muster enough energy to hit the road with the Calfee for a nice 30 mile loop from the house.  We’d only planned to go 14 miles, but when we got to the 7 mile turn for home, we went the other way… the weather was just about perfect for cycling!  Traffic was also unusually light for a Saturday afternoon: gotta love it when college football keeps folks off the road and glued to their TVs!!!!

Our cycling actually included a bit of a dialog on tandems, along the lines of… could we ever imagine having a tandem that suits us as well as our Calfee has?  Hmmmm.  If we had to replace it, what would we replace it with?  The Calfee has couplers, but we’ve never taken it on an airplane.  However, we have taken it with us on our motorcycle, packed neatly in the bottom of our motorcycle’s trailer and we’ve also had to send parts of the bike back to California for some rework, made much easier by having a bike that packs down into a very small box, relatively speaking.

How about the type of tandem?  I’d talked about adding a second road / enduro tandem to our fleet now that the Erickson is gone.  However, this would be a dual disc tandem that could sport either large volume 650b knobbies or slicks so that it could be used for trails, touring and other road duty where a high volume tire would be desirable.

Then again, it might be interesting to see how some of the the other performance tandems handle and feel compared to the Calfee: it’s always interesting to see how tandems stack up against each other.  I still go back and read my Santana Beyond review from time to time to remind myself what I discovered during our 3/4 day extended test at Santana’s Chattanooga Rally.

Santana Beyond

Always interesting to ponder.  Truthfully, we’re quite happy with the Calfee, but then again… we were also quite happy with the Erickson until the Calfee came along.  So many bikes, so little time and resources!

SUNDAY

As mtbtandem_sepyou can see from the previous entry, Sunday was a beautiful day here in Georgia, weather wise and otherwise.  For the first time in just under four years, Debbie and I swung a leg over an off-road tandem and hit the trail!  We only did about a 5-mile loop, but it was perhaps the most significant 5 miles we’ve ridden in a long, long time.  I truly believe adding off-road tandem rides to our riding routine will put some ‘fun’ back into the equation and also bring a whole different level of fitness to our weekly routines.  She doesn’t read these blog entries or Facebook so I’m relatively safe — assuming friends don’t rat me out — in saying that I’m hopeful we’ll be able to do one weekend day of road tandem riding each week with the other being used for off-road.  Well, at least for a short while: the local trails will shut down in mid-October through January 1st during hunting season: wouldn’t you know.

Getting back to my notional riding scenarios, a half-day spent cycling is about all we can  hope for as we have to balance out the need to spend time working around the house, time with the kids/grandkids and of course our other two-wheel past time — motorcycling — for a few more years. That’s been one of the problems with our Georgia Tandem Club rides as they have become all-day events where 2 to 3 hours are lost just getting to and from the increasingly remote ride locations.  Oh well, it’s all about priorities.

Speaking of motorcycling, it was an interesting couple of weeks as I’ve had two of our three motorcycles in for service at the same time.  All I can say is, I’m really glad I can do all of my own bicycle maintenance.  I wish I’d have kept my motorcycle engine overhaul and repair skills up to snuff, as getting a good wrench to work on your big bikes is hardly a no-brainer.  Even the very best miss a few things these days.

Tool Box

On the bright side, all of the motorcycles are back at home and I believe they’re all in good running order.  Our Road King, Blue, needs a module in the sound system changed-out before we head to Florida on the 1st and 3rd weekends for the fall editions of Bike Week in Panama City Beach and Daytona.  We were able to get in a nice 80-mile ride today after our tandem mountain bike ride at a trail just 5 miles from our house: how cool is that!

We actually took Blue to lunch at what is usually our Saturday night dinner spot — Loco Willy’s — as we tried a new place on Saturday.  We met our friends David & Deb along the way to lunch and they joined us at Loco’s: how appropriate!  After lunch, we headed over to Cartersville, Georgia on a nice 60-mile loop that included a stop at the Cartersville Harley-Davidson shop.  As sometimes happens, I found a really cute top and a really awesome leather vest for Debbie while we were there. What can I say, I like spoiling my sweetie and, well, I like outfitting her with things that we both like!

Sometimes I think that tandem cycling could benefit from an infusion of fashion, something that is tailored to suit the unique needs of mature couples who cycling together!  Lets face it, lycra isn’t always flattering: there’s got to be a better fashion solution for cycling!  After all, we ain’t out there racing!  I’m thinking a lined touring cargo short in a madras print with a Hawaiian styled, collared shirt!  Good grief, I’m getting delusional!  Time to wrap it up.

 

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Playing in the Dirt Again!

mtbtandem_sepRegular readers may recall that in October of last year I was less than optimistic as to whether or not Debbie would ever give off-road tandem cycling another shot.  The full details of my dilemma at the time were covered in a blog entry entitled, No More Mountain  Tandem, sniff, sniff.

I’m not sure why, but I continued to hold out hope she might at least give me one last chance to re-introduce her to off-road tandeming before selling-off our 2002 Ventana full-suspension tandem which had not been ridden since April 2010.  Our last off-road tandem ride was in November 2010, but on a newer Ventana (Casper) that Alex Nutt from MTBTandems.com had let us borrow.

Decisions, decisions....

Interestingly enough, about 1/2 way through that ride Debbie had told me she liked the white Ventana more than our 8-year old, under utilized Ventana. However, by the end of the ride and unbeknownst to me, she had pretty much lost her nerve and interest in riding off-road.  To this day she can’t pin point why, but that was the last time we put two tires in the dirt.

I never really got serious about selling either the triplet — which has only seen use at a few tandem rallies and gatherings of tandem friends for rides up in Tennessee — or the Ventana as even a remote chance to ride either bikes at some point in the future was all I needed to justify holding on to the bikes.

Even though Debbie had agreed she’d give it one more try last winter, whenever I followed-up on her offer she just didn’t feel like it or was more interested in riding the road tandem.  So, about every six weeks or so I’d bring it up, usually after riding the local loops on my single mountain bikes but with no success.  This weekend some friends shot me an Email asking if we might still be interested in selling the Ventana which gave me one last shot to see if Debbie would give it a try: this was definitely an either / or question. Either we give it a shot and confirm that the Ventana has a place in our future riding plans or sell it… to our friends (if it fit and suited their needs / budget) or someone else.

Her initial response was, let’s just sell it.  However, I persisted and asked her to give our very nice and not-all-that-technical trail a try on the Ventana, noting I would put about 270lbs of air pressure in the rear shock to minimize the frame bob that she has never liked on either of our Ventana full-suspension off-road tandems.  Moreover, the way the trail is laid out, the first mile was pretty much a dirt road with just a couple turns, a very small water crossing and a bridge leading to the actual trail.  Therefore, if that first 1/2 mile or so wasn’t enjoyable, we’d simply turn around, call it a day and sell the Ventana.

Much to my surprise, her next question was, “Do we still have the Camelbaks?”  I said yes and she agreed to give it a try!!!!  Talk about doing the happy dance on the inside; I was jubilant but tried not to show it.

Although there was a little trepidation when we woke up this morning, the weather was so nice that it made the idea of a nice tandem ride of any type a very inviting thing.  I got the Ventana ready, which really didn’t take a lot of effort: I do periodic maintenance on all of our bikes so they’re pretty much ready to go with just some air in the tires.  However, I needed to move some pedals over to the bike and wanted to double-check the rear shock to make sure it was still holding air from the last PM a couple of months back: it was.  I just needed to top it off to be certain that I’d minimized the pedaling-induced bobbing our Ventana tandems had always exhibited.  With the front wheel installed, air in tires and a successful solo test ride to the end of our street completed, I slid the tandem into the back of our Toyota Tundra on its side with the front wheel resting on the tailgate in the down position; we were good to go.

We made a couple of short test rides in the dirt parking lot of our local trail and after getting Debbie’s saddle raised up a bit we were off.  At the predetermined end of the access trail I asked Debbie; “So do you want to continue or should we head back?”  She said, so far so good.  I skipped the extra 1-mile loop that adds some higher technical climbs and descents to the ride which Debbie said she appreciated.  My sense that our local trails would be more to her liking was spot-on: she really enjoyed our short loop ride.  She said she got a good workout, felt like she was able to put power into the pedals without the tandem sucking her energy away with suspension bob, and really didn’t mind the tight corners, narrow tree gaps and other features of the trail.  She was very pleased that we were able to easily clear a couple features that I thought might have required a dismount and portage.

Riding the Ventana with Debbie aboard for the first time in 4.5 years was a bit of a re-learning experience for me.  I definitely forgot just how much positive steering control was required to keep the Ventana headed where I wanted it to go: I probably need to move the triple clamps to see if I can’t add some steering trail.  Over the past 4.5 years I’ve also moved to a more upright position on my mountain bikes, so I was also dealing with being in a much more leaned-over, aggressive riding position than I’m used to.  One thing that hasn’t changed with our Ventana that I really wish would was disc brake squeal: I suspect it’s the four piston design.

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So, I think I have a green light for some return visits to the local trail over the winter which is goodness.  As to whether or not we’ll sell the Ventana, having had it in my hands again I’m pretty sure it’s too small for our friends who expressed an interest in the bike: the fork steerer would have needed to be at least another good 2″ – 3″ for the captain’s bar height to be correct and his wife would need a very long seat post as she’s quite a bit taller than Debbie is at just 5’2″.   There are definitely a few things I can do to it to make it “good enough” to take us until next spring, during which time we’ll really know if off-road riding will be something we do more often.

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From the archives: While fooling around at Sixes Road back around 2008, I misjudged the steepness of a drop-off and caught Debbie’s pedal at the worse possible moment. We ended up in a pile at the bottom of the berm thankfully laughing and unhurt. I don’t think Debbie has ever forgotten that or any of the other bumps and bruisers she’s collected riding off-road.

I don’t see us heading off to any trails that are super technical or with advanced riders, as I suspect pushing past Debbie’s comfort zone — and some spills — is what took a toll on her confidence.  It’s also noteworthy that she has some bone density issues, which makes the risks associated with a fall in the woods higher for her than the average person who lands on a rock, root or clips a tree with a shoulder.

I can definitely see that a visit to MTBTandems with our bike is in the near future, as I do need to get my stem height and reach sorted out and will most likely move over to Avid BB7’s instead of screwing around with floating rotors for the Hope hydraulic disks that continue to squeak and shriek.

 

Posted in Bloggishnish, Off-Road Tandems, Technology & Equip. | 2 Comments