Triplet’s Are Tough on Drivetrain Components

During the Georgia Tandem Rally the triplet’s drivetrain seemed to be wanting for some attention, more than could be resolved by simply trimming or fine-tuning the derailleur position with the in-line barrel adjusters.

In fact, at one rest stop where I found our friends Ric & Marsha from House of Tandems had set-up shop I borrowed a rear cassette lock ring wrench just to make sure the lock ring was fully torqued and not contributing to some chain skipping we were experiencing in our highest gear.  No, that was good and the rear derailleur hanger also looked to be straight and secure.  My guess was, the chains were probably about due for replacement.

Once I had the triplet back at home a quick measurement with the Park chain checker confirmed was I suspected, the chains were indeed in need of replacement. It should come as no surprise, a triplet with three adults driving the bike clearly put a lot more wear and tear on the chains as compared to a tandem, never mind a single bike. Once I pulled the chains off it also seemed like the front & rear FSA Mega EXO bottom brackets were in need of attention.  With the cranks and chains pulled and tires removed the triplet got a wipe down and was put back in the rafters to free up floor space — a triplet definitely takes up a lot of room where ever it is — until I had some time to work on the bike and/or get any needed parts.

It was Wednesday when I did some checking and confirmed  I had enough left-over O-rings and outer seals from when I overhauled our friend Lisa’s triplet back in July 2012 to service the 2 FSA Mega EXO bottom brackets on our triplet.  I had to go back and check my blogs to see when I’d actually done that work on her Mango triplet as I thought it was before we acquired our own triplet.  But, no… it was shortly there after in the summer of 2012.  And, yes… working on these really long bikes can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t have a large work space.

Given I had the parts I needed for the rebuild I went ahead and pulled down the triplet and set it up in a pair of workstands in the middle bay of our garage, which was open since our Tacoma was in the shop for its 20,000 mile service. As often times is the case, the plastic outer seals usually end up damaged when you remove them which is why I had extra ones on hand.  Same thing with the O-rings; they’re usually a one-time use item as well.  With the outer seals removed I was then able to use my blind bearing removal kit to pull the four bearings out of the bearing cups which remained in the frame.

Upon inspection, the cups and inner seals were in good shape as were the outer seal  blade seals, so I did indeed have everything I needed for the rebuild.  As for the bearings, the front two definitely felt like they were due for a cleaning and relube but the rear bottom bracket bearings felt really good.

After removing the pressed-in seals from all four bearings, as suspected, the front bearing grease was pretty nasty which makes sense since the front bottom bracket ends up being mucked up by all of the dirt and water thrown up by the front wheel.  The rear bearings, on the other hand, looked like new under the seals.  I probably didn’t even need to flush them out and re-grease them, but went ahead and did it anyway. After that, the cups were cleaned, the bearings were pressed back into the cups, followed by the new outer seals with the re-used blade seals and then the cranks went back in with their new O-rings.  It’s all rather straight forward.

I’m still in awe of how much torque is spec’d for the BB8000 type rear cranks but it seems to work just fine but also explains why we still find a lot of tandem teams riding around with creaky FSA bottom brackets. Your average shade-tree mechanic and a lot of shop mechanics don’t appreciate how much 30ft lbs of torque feels like.

As a closing note,  our triplet is a bit odd in that it has three different types of FSA bottom brackets and cranks, not a matched set.  I had to do that in order to get the right length and style cranks and was buying new old stock off of ebay when I rebuilt our triplet.  Anyway, the bottom brackets and cranks are all back together and spinning much better than they did before the rebuild.  All I need to do to have the triplet ride-ready is get some new chains ordered and installed, so that’s next on my to-do list.

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Our 21st Georgia Tandem Rally

Note: Many thanks go out to our friends at the Georgia Tandem Rally & House of Tandems for making many of photos in this blog available to us so we could fully document our rally experience. 

Thursday:  Loading Up & Get-Away-Day

Coming off of a less that successful attempt to get in a pre-Georgia Tandem Rally (GTR) triplet ride with our friend Lisa in South Carolina on 11 May, we turned our attention to the coming weekend’s GTR event in Covington, Georgia, a mere 65-miles to the east and were pleased to see the weather outlook was far better!  With that in mind, we contacted the hotel and moved-up our check-in date from Friday the 17th to Thursday the 16th so we could make the most of the event.

Normally, if a cycling event or the first day of an event is within a couple of hour’s drive we’ll just get up early and drive to the event so we don’t have to spend an extra night in the hotel.  Not only is it a bit costly, we just don’t sleep well when we’re away from home.  Of course, I don’t usually sleep well the night before an early morning departure so it probably is a moot point.  Regardless, I didn’t want to mess with Atlanta traffic on Friday morning so our plan was to make the hour and a half drive over to Covington, Georgia, in the early afternoon vs. being stuck in traffic for an addition 30 – 45 minutes at just about any other time when the sun is up.

With that ahead of us, job #1 for Thursday was putting the Yakima rack back on the truck, loading the triplet and then loading all of our cycling related equipment and gear.  It’s amazing how much “stuff” I still take to rallies, but I’d rather have most of my tools, a repair stand and spare parts on hand to address any issues we have with the tandem vs. bothering the one technical support guy, our friend Ric, from The House of Tandems in Houston, Texas, who makes the drive over to Georgia every May with his wife Marcia to provide support for the rally.

We left the house after lunch at 12:30pm and arrived in Covington shortly after 2:00pm, with just the usual traffic right when we got on the Interstate near Marietta, Georgia: it’s always a mess.  We visited a bit with friends at the hotel and wandered over to Chili’s Grille and Bar right next to the hotel for cocktails and dinner around 5:30pm.  Our friend and riding companion on the triplet Lisa joined as around 6:30pm for dinner.  It was a nice time and it was really nice not having to get in the truck and drive anywhere.  We retired back to the hotel just before 8:00pm to watch Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Playoff series between the Boston Bruins and Carolina Hurricanes, noting we’re pulling for Boston: I’d just like to see them take home the World Series, Super Bowl and Stanley Cup in the same year!  And, they’re almost there, as they swept Carolina in their series, 4 games to none.

Friday:  Remote Start from Social Circle

It was around 7:00am when we finally got ourselves up and headed down to have breakfast before our 8:00am departure for the remote start to Friday’s ride from Social Circle.  Breakfast was your typical hotel fare and we were at the remote start by 8:35am, giving us plenty of time to get the triplet off the truck and ready to ride.

We opted to go with the 45-mile route vs. the 32-mile or 60-mile options, as we didn’t want to overdue it on the 1st day of the event, but we also didn’t want to finish too early.  Well, and there were some folks who we wanted to ride with who would also be doing the 45-mile route.  We jockeyed between different groups on the first 28 miles of the ride — friends from Florida, the Carolina’s and elsewhere — and after the store stop at 28 miles finished up the last 18 miles riding with long-time friends Eric & Linda and Roger & Eve.

We first met them back in August 1997 right after buying our 1st tandem and have been riding with them ever since, dear friends to be sure.   It was a good day on the bike, with sunny weather and warm temperatures; well, ok: the heat caught us off guard.  We jumped from essentially high 70’s to low 80’s on our rides thus far in 2019 to 90+ degrees today.  Lisa was her usual chatty self and Debbie was, as always, an attentive and polite listener.  We had to make a few adjustments to riding positions on the bike that will hopefully make us feel a bit stronger on the climbs tomorrow as they were a bit of a struggle today.

After the ride we headed over to Hot Rod’s Diner behind the Blue Willow Inn in Social Circle for lunch with our riding companions and were also joined by other long-time friends Jack & Susan who are also the dealers who sold us our first tandem back in August 1997.  We definitely picked the right place for lunch!  We had a great time in a very fun and casual setting, were served quickly and the meals were all perfect… portion and quality!

Back at the hotel I pulled the triplet off the top of the truck and put it in the storage room on the off chance we’d get an afternoon shower and so it would be easier to access in the morning.  After that I changed into my swimsuit and headed down to the pool to do a little reading and relax… while staying out of Debbie’s hair while she cleaned-up, washed her hair and got ready for the evening.

As for the late afternoon, we headed over to Amici’s on the square in Covington, GA, where the GTR folks we having an afternoon social.  We had a great time and ended up staying there for dinner.

We also made a stop at Scoop’s Ice Cream parlor to get our GTR sweet fix for the weekend.  From there we headed back to the hotel — noting that a thunderstorm did pass through the area — and finished the night watching the Stanley Cup playoff series between the San Jose Sharks and the St. Louis Blues. The St. Louis Blues won sending the series into at least two more games in the best of seven series to determine which team will face the Boston Bruins.  I also had a really nice chat with Ric and Marcia Becker while Debbie was watching the game. Always such a good time talking tandems and cycling with Ric and Marcia.

Saturday:  The Biscuits in Jersey Ride

It was around 7:00am when we finally got up and headed down to breakfast so we’d be ready to ride at 8:30am.  After eating I got the triplet out of the bike storage room and put it outside so it would be out of the way as the hotel lobby began to fill up with people and other bikes coming out of their rooms.

We did the middle length option of 46 miles vs. the shorter 31 or longer 60 so that we’d be sure to have lunch around noon, avoid being out riding during the hottest part of the day and also have some strength left in our legs for Sunday’s ride.  All three routes included a stop for biscuits in the town of Jersey at the Buckeye restaurant.  We rode the 1st 15 miles with our friends Duncan & Laura, Greg & Angela and a few other teams whom we’ve met at previous rallies but whose names escape me.  After the biscuit stop we rode the balance of the 30 miles with our friends Eric & Linda.  Lunch was served at a small nature preserve a few miles from the hotel, the same place where they held an ice cream social at the last rally in Covington back in 2009.  It was somewhat different fare, featuring build your own fajita’s with cookies and brownies for desert.

The last two miles of the ride back to the hotel were a bit of a challenge as it was a stead uphill ride.  But, we made it and then headed down to the pool to relax for a bit.  We also spent some time visiting with our friends Ducan and Laura from Wilimington, North Carolina, and looking at the slide show from the spring garden show they hosted at their home — it was truly amazing — before getting cleaned up for the Saturday evening banquet at 5:00pm.

It was just a short drive over to the North Carolina Technical School facility where the banquet was held and we had a nice visiting with a few friends and shared our tables with Geri & Wayne, a truly lovely and fun couple from Taccoa, Georgia, who we get to see at several events each year and the BBQ buffet was really quite good.  There was a running slideshow of photos taken during the rally so, as noted earlier,  such as the one that our friend Geri caught of us from the slide show… as well as her photo of us from dinner.

After that it was another quiet night at the hotel, sadly… without any hockey.  Yes, tandem rally crowds aren’t exactly attended by folks who go out in search of night life on Friday and Saturday nights.  Probably a good thing since we all need to get up before 7:00am and be ready to ride 30 to 60 miles by 8:30am.

Sunday: A Short Ride & The Return Home

Today was pretty much the same routine as yesterday other than having to make sure we would be back to the hotel, showered and checked-out by 11:00am for a variety of reasons.  With that in mind, we pre-packed before the ride and we opted to ride the shorter, 25-mile route.

It was really a great ride, mostly because we ended up riding with our long-time friends, Roger & Eve.  It was a beautiful route and even on the triplet we tend to ride at a tempo that is very compatible with Roger & Eve. There were some other folks who joined-in along the way, but it was mostly just the five of us until the gas station rest stop at the 18-mile mark where a lot of the folks on the 25-mile route began to congregate after we arrived and a fairly large group photo was taken, quite similar to one we took 10 years ago on the very same ride.

We were back at the hotel by 10:20am and as I put the triplet up on top of the truck Debbie headed up to get her shower and finish packing.  I was up in the room, showered and had our bags back down at the car by 10:45am. All we needed to do before heading home was to bid adieux to our friends Lisa, Roger, Eve, Eric, Linda, Ric, Marsha and a few others.

With the goodbyes taken care of it was a relatively easy drive back towards home.  We stopped and it was a bit after 2:00pm before we got home and began unloading, putting away and cleaning-up after our tandem weekend.  I need to give the triplet a good looking over before I put it away just to make sure anything that needs attention such as chains or bottom bracket bearings can be addressed before our next outing, most likely in late September.

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The 1st Triplet Trip with the Tacoma Was a Rain-Out

The week began with nice weather, which we sorely need and hoped would hold out through next weekend so we could get in a ride on the triplet with our friend Lisa at “The Rally in the Valley” in Walhalla, South Carolina, on Saturday, 11 May.

Having to prepare for the ride in South Carolina meant getting the triplet down out of the rafters, the pedals moved over from our off-road tandem and mud guards fitted noting the weather outlook for South Carolina and most of the Southeast was wet for the coming weekend. It also gave me a chance to install and road test the semi-custom Yakima roof rack / fork mount and Sea Sucker rear wheel holder configuration on the Tacoma.  The latter turned out to be fortuitous in that, as the rack sat on the truck over night the left-hand Yakima roof clip essentially slipped away from the door edge and the thin piece of rubber coating on the clip that’s intended to protect the truck’s paint had split.  So, clearly, I needed to spend a little more time ‘fine-tuning’ my rack installation.  It took several different adjustments to get the clips to seat correctly and I also put some thick rubberized tape on the paint where the clips rested to help protect the truck’s finish.  It passed a local road test without any issues and also made the 300-mile round trip to South Carolina without any issues.

As for the actual 150-mile road trip to Salem, South Carolina,  Sadly, we ran into a lot of traffic on Interstate 75 South in Marietta and Atlanta, and then again in Gwinnett County. However, once we were out of the Atlanta area it was a nice drive and we took something of the back way up since we weren’t in a hurry. We arrived at Lisa’s at 4:00pm and had a great time visiting with Lisa at the house and then headed off to the nearby Jocassee Valley Brewing Company for dinner and live music.


The Jocassee Valley Brewing Company was really neat. They have mostly craft beers, some nice wines, and imported organic soft drinks but have different vendors come in with food on Friday’s. Today it was “Meat’n the Middle” and their catering truck with pulled pork, chicken and brisket served as sandwiches, taco’s or nacho’s and they sold more conventional soft drinks.  I had the Brown Ale and a Fentimen’s Curiosity Cola with my pulled chicken sandwich and Debbie had the brisket taco’s and a nice Moscato wine.  It was all delicious and the The West End String Band was great.  We headed back to the house around 8:30pm, continued chatting and retired for the night around 10:00pm.  Just a great visit, even if tomorrow’s Rally in the Valley ride was looking like it would be a rain-out.

Saturday:  Rally in the Valley is a Rain Out

We both slept quite well, but were woken up by rain twice during the night.  When I got up at 6:30am and checked the weather radar my sense was we’d be heading home around 10:00am, right after the heaviest rain came through the area.  Yup, it was a rain out for most fair weather riders like ourselves.  Hey, we’ll start a ride if it’s not raining even if there’s a threat of rain, but we don’t start out when it is raining or thunderstorms are expected.  We stayed at Lisa’s home chatting until around 10:30am when the rain finally let up a bit, as Lisa still had to go to the event venue as a volunteer to support the “after ride party.”  We, on the other hand, headed on home the back way.  There was no need to get home as quickly as possible via the interstates with the inevitable traffic jams around Atlanta and Marietta, so taking smaller highways across North Georgia would work out just fine and get us home within 15 minutes of interstate travel time but without all of the stress.

Back at the house we unpacked and I pulled the triplet off the truck and parked it in the garage.  The triplet will sit there taking up room until next weekend when we’ll make the short drive over to Covington, Georgia, for the Georgia Tandem Rally where we’ll spend 3 days riding with Lisa and 90 other couples.  Thankfully, the roof rack remained rock solid for the entire 300 mile round trip to South Carolina, which is a good thing: I was really worried the clips and mounts would “slip” at interstate speeds but they didn’t.  So, good to know the rack system is solid going forward.

As a follow-up on The Rally in the Valley, Lisa let us know that she and quite a few other cyclists did end up getting in the ride. Some went out during the morning in the rain while others waited for a few hours and rode on wet roads with a light rain later in the morning and the party went on all day at the ride start in spite of the rain.  So, good that a lot of folks had a chance to enjoy the event.

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Time is not your Tire’s Friend… How Old is Too Old?

As we gear up for a couple of cycling events in May when we’ll pull our Mark Johnson designed / Dennis Bushnell fabricated “Precision Triplet” down from the storage hooks it dawned on me the tires on the were the same ones I installed right after we acquired and overhauled the frame and components in March through April 2012; these are the before, during and after photos….

Again, the problem here is that those wonderful 28mm Schwalbe Ultremo ZX tires were now 7 years old.  And, even though there were less than 1,000 miles on those tires with plenty of tread still remaining, time has sucked the life out of the materials that make up the tire.

As you can see in the photo below, the outer tread that overlays the puncture resistant strip between the tread and tire carcass had dried-out and was cracking at the outer edges of the dissimilar material as the tires were simply hanging in the fairly-well temperature controlled garage that fluctuated perhaps from 50°F during the coldest winter days to 95°F during the hottest days here in Georgia.  This is not what you want a tire carrying three adults at speeds up to 50mph to look like. Truth be told, this not anything you want to see on any bicycle tire that you’re depending upon for your safe arrival at the end of a ride.

I was recently reminded of this when I pulled a set of old but never used Vredestein Fortezza tires out and fitted them to my ’99 Erickson single bike. They looked just fine when I pulled them out of my storage cabinet and fitted them to the wheels.  However, after sitting inflated on those rims for a week the threads in the tire carcass simply failed due to their age and the ravages of dry heat such that, when I pulled the bike down to go for a ride, I could clearly see the tire had ulcerations and not fit for use.

So, the Erickson received a fresh set of fresh, soft and supple tires as did the wheels for the triplet.  Both were Continental-branded tires, noting I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with Continental bicycle and car tires.  However, having looked at all of our tire options and knowing both sets of tires on these two bikes will suffer a similar fate to the tires they replaced, i.e., death by decay not from worn-out tread, the Continental Gran Prix Classics on the Erickson and the Gatorskin Reptile on the triplet should be more than adequate.

So, how old are the tires on your tandem or bicycle? If you can’t remember, it might be a good time to take a closer look.

Posted in Advice & Commentary, Technology & Equip. | 8 Comments

A Great Day At The Alabama Tandem Weekend in Pell City, Alabama


Our first major cycling event for the year was planned to be the 3-day Alabama Tandem Weekend (ATW) in Pell City, Alabama, on 12-14 April.  However, due to a variety of issues our 3-days of riding was reduced to a single day ride on Friday before heading back home on Saturday morning.  There were a variety of factors led to our decision to pass on Saturday and Sunday’s activities but we were thankful to our hosts for getting at least one great day of riding and social activity on Friday.

Getting Ready for ATW:

To be quite honest, we’ve not been able to get in a lot of cycling during 2019.  We’ve had a very cold and damp winter and spring and Debbie’s threshold for riding in cold weather has crept up from the 40’s in the late 90’s to the mid-60’s… provided the sun is out.  Therefore, as I did on the Tuesday leading up to ATW, I took advantage of a beautiful but cool day by heading out alone on a single bike for a 25-mile ride from the house while Debbie opted to stay indoors and exercise.  It was a good ride, but not a great ride.  I felt a bit tired and in retrospect, it was likely the pollen count of 7,000 I was struggling with.

Back at the house after my ride I re-checked the weather for the tandem weekend over in Pell City, Alabama, and it was not looking all that great… especially for Sunday. With that in mind I kept my fingers crossed Friday & Saturday’s weather will still be dry enough to allow us to get at least one or two days of riding.  I had until 4:00pm on Thursday to cancel our room at the Holiday Inn Express, noting that I neglected to book early enough to secure a room next door at the Hampton Inn, the host hotel for ATW.  My back-up plan for inclement weather was to keep our room and head over on Friday even if it was raining and tour the Talladega International Motorsports Hall of Fame adjacent to the Super Speedway, visit with our tandem friends and then ride if and when the weather allowed.  If Saturday became a wash-out as well, we’ll visit the Barber Motorsports Museum and head home early.

On Wednesday the only prep work I needed to perform on our now 11-year old Calfee tandem before ATW was to switch-out the 25mm wide Vredestein Fortezza tires for a set of 28mm wide Schwalbe Durano tires as I’m reminded the roads in Alabama are often times not in great shape and often times paved using chip-seal. The last thing you want to do is to try to ride a narrow, high-pressure tire on rugged roads if you’re hoping to enjoy any part of the ride, so fitting the widest tire that will fit in your frame and running it at 85-95 psi will go a long way towards allowing your tire to deform as it passes over the rough pavement.  I’d actually bought the 28mm Schwalbe Durano tires for our triplet as the tires on it are now 7-years old and likely over-due for replacement, so good I had them available as I’m not sure a set of 28mm Continental Gatorskin tires would have sufficient clearance around our Calfee’s True Temper Alpha Q fork, noting the Schwalbe tires tend to run a bit more narrow than their cited dimension: the Schwalbe’s were a perfect fit.

On Thursday as we watched the weather outlook we decided to stay on plan for our trip over to the Alabama tandem rally on Friday & Saturday, come rain or shine.  With that decision made, I went ahead and packed my cycling-related work stand and tools into the truck, followed by the tandem on the new transportation fixture.  It’s a bit of a different arrangement than the one I used in the Tundra given the Tacoma’s bed is quite a bit smaller.  But, by changing where I put the tools I’ve been able to free up space for our luggage and the net effect is we’re still able to put all of our luggage and equipment in the Tacoma’s bed, so that’s a good thing.

Friday:  Alabama Tandem Weekend at Pell City, Alabama

We were up and on the road by 7:30am Eastern time which would put us at the Talladega Speedway where Friday’s ride would start and end by 8:30am Central time.  We had a bit of traffic close to home given all the school buses and parents taking kids to school, but it was otherwise an easy drive.  We were in and out of rain most of the way through Georgia, but as soon as we reached Alabama the skies began to clear.

We arrived at 8:30am per plan and found our long-time friends and frequent tandem riding partners Roger & Eve as well as another 15 or so tandem teams milling about in the parking lot of the Talladega International Motorsports Museum.  Other folks whom we’ve known for many years — Paul & Jody, Steve & Eva, Ron & Sheri — were on hand along with Jack & Susan from Tandems Limited in Birmingham who were hosting this year’s Alabama Tandem Weekend.  The weather was now ideal, with temperatures in the upper 60’s, blue skies, a warm sun and a moderate breeze.

After a rider’s meeting at 9:00am, we rolled out for the start of the ride around 9:15am and paired-up with Roger & Eve for the 47-mile route.  It was really nice being back together with them on the tandems as we ride at a very similar pace.  The ride had a bit more climbing than I’d expected, but the roads were as rough as I remembered so good that I’d put the larger, more forgiving tires on our tandem.

We made one store stop about 37 miles into the ride where two other couples who were on one of the shorter routes had stopped and had a nice time visiting with them, noting they and just about anyone else who rides a tandem and lives East of the Mississippi River know Roger & Eve as the long-time co-directors of the Georgia Tandem Rally.  Thankfully, I’ve drifted back into relative obscurity since I’m no longer as active on the tandem discussion forums as I’d been in the 90’s and 2000’s.

We arrived back at the Talladega Speedway shortly after noon where only a few of the tandem teams were still lingering or rolling back in from their respective rides, the assumption being teams who opted for the shorter routes had already gone on to lunch.  It felt good to get out and ride the longer distance at the harder pace, but the pollen had played havoc with my respiratory system.

We had lunch with Roger & Eve at the The Golden Rule, a BBQ place just a 1/4 mile from our hotels in Pell City.  The Golden Rule is apparently an Alabama institution with 7 locations in addition to Irondale, Alabama, where it all started in 1891.  It was a very nice restaurant with a great menu and lots of meal options.  Debbie opted for the pulled-pork BBQ sandwich and I had ribs on my mind and ended-up ordering a platter.  While Debbie’s sandwich was very good, the ribs… not so much. They were over-cooked, over-sauced and underwhelming. But, we had great company so all said and done, we had a great time at lunch.

We were able to check-in early at the Holiday Inn Express around 2:30pm and initially thought we had a great room located just off the lobby.  Yeah, well… I should have thought about that as we got to hear every guest come and go through the lobby and our bedroom wall backed-up to the elevator so we also listened to that all day and all night.  My bad for not requesting a room change, but this wasn’t readily apparent until we were settled-in.

After getting showers and relaxing a bit we went next door to the Hampton Inn where the balance of the folks who were attending the tandem weekend were staying.  We found Jack & Susan and Ron & Shari in the lounge area chatting.  We joined them and enjoyed hearing about their various past and future travels around the world, kids, grandkids and the other things seasoned cyclists like ourselves who now make up the vast majority of couples who attend tandem rally get to enjoy as we move from the working world into post-working life.  Several other couples began to gather in the lounge and around 5:30pm we all headed off en mass to the Pell City Steakhouse for dinner.

There were a total of 12 couples who made their way to the Pell City Steakhouse, an iconic southern meat & three type restaurant that first opened in 1948 and probably hasn’t changed much since then.  It seats a total of 175 guests, noting we were seated in the rear dining area by ourselves.  They serve no alcohol and offer comfort food, including surf and turf, salads, amazing deserts.

We had a great time visiting with old friends and meeting a few new ones.  The Pell City Steakhouse also did not disappoint.  The one gentleman who was taking care of us did an amazing job of quickly taking our drink and then food orders and kept everything flowing throughout our meal.  The food was very good and plentiful which is nice given how many of the folks at dinner are like us and split their entrees. Note: Pell City Steakhouse photos by Jack Goertz.

We stopped at a Buffalo Wild Wing bar and grille on the way back to our hotel for a cocktail to end our evening, noting the time zone change had us a bit screwed up.  We watched the end of the NASCAR Infinity Series race on one screen, the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on another and the Braves vs. the Mets on yet another screen while revisiting the day and talking about our plans for Saturday.  The gal taking care of us was great and we had fun with a couple of the other guests at the bar who were also watching the ballgame.  It was a good way to end a long, enjoyable day.

Saturday: Best Laid Plans & Calling an Audible

For a variety of reasons, neither Debbie nor I got much sleep on Friday night.  I had not been feeling good on Thursday night and ended up sleeping 10 hours, which is very unusual for me.  We probably went to bed too early given the time-zone change.  There was, as mentioned, a lot of noise coming from the hotel lobby as guests came and went and the elevator ran non-stop.  I was struggling with allergy issues and congested and the bed / room just wasn’t comfortable.  We struggled to find the right temperature all night long and, again… Bottom Line: I’m not sure either one of us were able to get a hour’s worth of sleep.

We finally gave up on attempting to sleep around 5:30am and began to consider our options for the day.  A look out the window suggested rain was in our future and a check of the weather outlook confirmed that.  At best, it would be noon-time before the roads might be dry for an afternoon ride and Sunday’s forecast was still calling for severe weather. I was still struggling with my allergies and both Debbie and I were nursing sore sit-bones from Friday’s ride with all of its climbing.  I didn’t do myself any favors by continuing to wear cycling shorts that are a bit too large and also losing their elasticity which had me sliding around on my saddle on those long climbs and Debbie just didn’t have a lot of saddle time. So, the prospect of getting back on the bike, being tired, me struggling with allergies and not even being able to start our ride until at least noon caused us to pull the plug on our weekend of cycling at 6:00am while we were having breakfast in the hotel lobby.  We sent a text to Jack to thank him for the great day of riding and dinner on Friday,  packed our bags, checked-out of the hotel and were headed East by 7:30am just as the rain began to fall in Pell City.

We were really disappointed the weekend didn’t play out the way we’d expected, but were still thankful for the good day we’d had on the bike riding with Roger & Eve on Friday and the social engagements we had throughout the rest of the day.  So, all-in-all, it was still a good trip, albeit with a lot less saddle time and time with friends than we’d hoped.

Back at the house we quickly jumped into other projects to fill the void.  No, getting out on the tandem at home was still not an option!  I need to go shopping for some new bib cycling shorts sooner rather than later!  And, the pollen counts are still high to very high with something out there blowing around that’s really giving me fits.

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Sometimes You Own the Trail, Sometimes The Trail Owns You!

A week ago Tuesday, after I had all of my planned chores completed, I decided to head off and get in a short ride on the local mountain bike trails.  However, I made two critical errors related to this particular day in the woods.

The first was not doing a full pre-ride check of my beloved Ventana Marble Peak mountain bike and, in particular, making sure the front suspension fork had sufficient air pressure to function properly.  The second was getting to the trail and realizing this, but going ahead and riding with a less than fully-effective front fork and slightly altered steering geometry.

The latter made the bike handle a little less precisely than it should or that I’m used to which may or may not have contributed to my clipping a handlebar end on a tree while riding along the trail at 12 mph that sent me flying to the root, rock and otherwise unforgiving ground.

Thankfully, I didn’t break or fracture anything, but my left leg from my knee to my waist was pretty banged-up along with my left arm, middle finger and left shoulder.  After dusting myself off and assessing my various injuries I knew I was shaken and scuffed up, but otherwise OK as was the bike.  So I finished the last 4 miles of the 7-mile loop and headed home to attend to my abrasions and bruised ego.

On the bright side, Tuesday’s incident did not keep me off the bike.  It was around 1:00pm on Wednesday when Debbie and I headed out for a tandem ride; yes, a tandem ride!!

It was a lovely sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70’s and a slight wind.  Just a perfect day for a ride and, thankfully, with kids out for spring break, the usual afternoon traffic wouldn’t be an issue for us.. and it wasn’t.  We had a really, really good ride and were even a bit surprised about how well we rode given such little saddle time over the winter.

Yes, we have a long way to go to get our form back and I don’t see that happening by the Alabama Tandem Weekend, but if we can get good weather between now and mid-May we should be in pretty good form by then.

Getting back to the off-road incident, a good friend took note that I was still using a 20-year old RockShox SID suspension fork that I’ve rebuilt twice on my 22-year old Ventana Marble Peak.  So, it’s actually in pretty good shape, but the technology and performance is well off the standards being used today.  With that in mind, I adjusted the air pressure in both the positive and negative rebound chambers and thought about giving it another shot before making a decision as to whether it stays or goes while also shopping around for a replacement.  My friends who are active off-road riders suggested a new mountain bike might be a better choice but, quite frankly, since I’m not racing and ride primarily for pleasure and fitness, I can’t see spending that kind of money on a new bike.  My old bikes continue to be “good enough” for my needs… and this is a huge step for me as that was never the case during the 80’s and 90’s when I changed bikes and tandems nearly every year.Yes, I was able to get it “sorted out” so it should work pretty well, but it’s far from being 100%.

With that as background, I went in search of a fork that’s similar to the one on my hardtail mountain bike — a 2013 Manitou R7 Pro model — and found what appeared to be a 2018 Manitou R7 Pro for reasonable money.  That will give me a fork that I know is easy to adjust and can be set up the same on both bikes to give me similar handling, which is a good thing.  It also fixes a problem I ran into when I needed to raise my handlebars and found there wasn’t a lot of steerer tube to work with on the RockShox SID fork based on where I cut it back in 1999 when it was new.   It should arrive in about a week, so I’ll be all set to hit the trails on the Ventana again after that.  In the mean time I’ll just ride my hardtail.

These are definitely 1st world problems…  and I remind mindful of that.

Posted in Bloggishnish, Technology & Equip. | 2 Comments

EOTR 2019: 12-15 September @ East Burke, VT

The 2019 Eastern Tandem Off Road (ETOR) rally will be held on 12-15 September 12-15 the Kingdom Trails near East Burke, Vermont.  Brenda & Larry Isherwood are hosting the event and have just added the registration forms and more detailed information to the EOTR 2019 Facebook page.

Where the heck is East Burke, Vermont you might ask, up yonder in the northeast corner of Vermont, a little south of Canada.


Posted in Off-Road Tandems | Leave a comment