A Cracked Thomson Stem = Always Keep Track of Your Nicks & Scratches

Our weather was anything but conducive to a pleasant tandem ride today as heavy rain fell on and off from 9am until 3pm.  And, if the weather’s hardly ideal for tandem cycling, it’s also not a good day for a recreational motorcycle ride either.

Since I was otherwise sequestered at home, I spend the better part of the morning running expense analysis and obtaining health care insurance quotes to figure out if we’ll truly be able to go into at least semi-retirement at the end of the year.  Yeah, that’s some sobering stuff to be sure: about $15,000/year for health + long term care and rising fast. So, we’ll see if Plan A holds up or if we’ll have to spend a few more years stacking chips. But I digress…

DSCN1260With the cheery business of retirement cost analysis behind me I decided to go out and give our Calfee tandem a little love in the form of new chains.  I’d been keeping a close eye on the chain wear and after last week’s PEACHES ride decided I’d probably gotten about as much life out of them as I could before the chain rings and cassette cogs would begin to wear. Personally, I find it far more economical to throw away $30 chains than to add the cost of a new cassette and chain rings to that chain replacement cost.

Incidentally, let me take a minute to plug “the mother of all tandem maintenance blog entries” that I penned for the Tandem Club of America’s blog last February. It covers just about everything I could think of when it comes to tandem maintenance.  I really do follow my own advice, albeit at a somewhat reduced pace in that no single bike in our fleet — except perhaps the Calfee tandem and Debbie’s single Calfee Luna Pro — to warrant the complete annual tune-up.

There weren’t any surprises with the chain replacements.  Both chains showed different amounts of wear in different places around each chain, but for the most part the average wear was scoring a 75% on my Park chain checker tool.  2.5 new chains were pulled out of the parts drawer (I tend to stock up and when work down my on-hand inventory so that I’m never without), thrown into a container filled with solvent to strip off the factory lubricants, then into a citrus bath to neutralize and strip off the solvent residue. After that, it was a cold water rinse and into the cold Fry Daddy where they’d sink into a hot melt wax bath and be heated up along with the wax, lest there be an explosion of hot wax if the cold wet chains were tossed into the hot wax.

With the chains cooking I turned my attention to the rest of the tandem, giving it a good once over before hitting the derailleurs, cassette and chain rings a hit of citrus cleaner before a wash down.

Imagine my surprise when I looked at the handlebars and noticed a crack across the top of my now 7-year old Thomson X2 road stem.  No way this was a scratch; it was clearly a crack and a new one at that.  I say this because my Garmin 705 Edge goes on the stem so the stem is something I look at before every ride.


Further investigation confirmed the stem had cracked all the way through, where the point of origin appeared to be at the back-end of the upper bolt hole.

DSCN1255  DSCN1258

I must say, I never expected to see an aluminum stem clamped around a composite handlebar fail, never mind a Thomson stem.  You would normally expect the composite to be the weak link.

Fortunately, I happened to have a couple spare Ritchey stems on hand so the Thomson was quickly replaced in the event that a ride opportunity comes up before a Thomson replacement stem shows up, although I may go with an X4 (4 bolt) model this time around.

DSCN1256  DSCN1257Anyway, that was my excitement for the day and an ever-present reminder of how important it is to keep an eye on your tandem and bikes for new creaks, squeaks and anything that could be an emerging crack in a critical place, like a stem!

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Three Days on the Bike; Tandem Hauler Overhaul…

First, the good news:  Three days on the bike this past weekend!


Yes indeed, despite a heavy rain throughout most of the day,  the sun broke through the clouds long enough to dry the center of our street and weather radar “seemed to suggest” it would remain dry for the next couple of hours.  Feeling the need for some ride time, I decided to throw caution to the wind and headed out on my single bike Friday afternoon.

20150410_165743I think I may have gotten a mile from the house when the first light rain began to fall.  My 20-some-odd mile ride ended up being about 50% in the rain and 90% on wet roads.  The rain was anywhere from misty to a steady light rain which wasn’t all that bad: I made it about seven miles before my cycling shoes had filled with water. On the bright side, the really heavy rain along with some nasty thunder and lightning held off until about 5-10 minutes after I rolled into the garage.

It felt so good to be back on the bike, but it was definitely one of those rides where most of the clothes came off in the garage where they could be wrung out before being hauled up stairs to the bike clothes hamper.  The bike still needs a good cleaning and, well, the chains were due for a fresh hot-melt-wax bath anyway.

The bike ride was one of several Friday highlights which also included (a) a lot of work on our finances in the AM, (b) some work-work, (c) a motorcycle ride over the Red Eyed Mule where I met my sweetie for lunch, (d) an overhaul of our master bath shower stall as an interim step to a full rebuild at some point, (e) the aforementioned bike ride, (f) the weekly Finally a Friday celebration at Loco Willy’s and then (g) the latest installment in our James Bond film festival before I fell off to sleep.  A pretty good day.


IMG_2912Saturday was a much nicer day compared to Friday, weather wise. The morning was filled with more banking and then around 2:00pm in the afternoon Miss Debbie and I headed out for a nice 30-mile tandem ride.  It was a beautiful day, to be sure!

After returning home and cleaning up, we headed over to meet with friends for a dinner gathering at their lake house. It’s fair to say that a grand time was had by all!

On the way back home we stopped by Castle Transmission where the truck was waiting for me to pick it up.  Tom Jr. had finished up the rear differential and left front hub bearing replacement around 7:00pm.  I know, I know… “I thought it had a transmission problem?”  Well, it did.  However, the truck had been running fine ever since and since the condition wasn’t present Tom Jr. didn’t want to start throwing parts at the transmission to see if the problem could be corrected without a proper diagnosis.


debbieWe were glad to have the truck back as the weather on Sunday morning wasn’t all that great, so taking the tandem to the Sunday PEACHES Tandem Club ride in the trailer behind the Road King would not have been as much fun as it would have one a bright sunny day. I should note, the truck was running great and with a lot less noise now that the worn-out rear pinion gear wasn’t singing.  The front end also felt very solid.

The PEACHES ride was hosted by Eric Osgood & Linda Wood and took us on a tour of North Atlanta beginning and ending at Brookwood, Georgia.  It was about a 40 mile ride and anything but flat, especially on the long option. However, it was great to be back out riding with friends and we had a nice group lunch after the ride at the Mellow Mushroom restaurant & pizzeria. peachesAfter we got back home in the late afternoon, I knocked off some additional banking and financial analysis while Debbie napped. I wish I could have napped, but something about me and not being able to sleep when the sun is up.  After Debbie’s nap we headed out to grab a little dinner.

Now the bad news…

It was almost an uneventful night, until on the drive home I heard an un-mistakable metal-rubbing-on-metal sound coming from the front end of the truck that was clearly related to wheel rotation: imagine a brake caliper with completely worn-down brake pads rubbing on the brake rotor. No, it had nothing to do with the brakes, but that’s what it sounded like. Although not necessarily related to the work we’d just had done, I opted to take the truck back to the folks at Castle since they were already familiar with our recent issues.  Hey, at least we were able to use it for the PEACHES ride!


It’s always interesting when good fortune masquerades as bad luck.

While the folks at Castle were identifying the source of the metal-rubbing-on-metal noise by driving the truck forward and then backwards in the shop parking lot, the transmission finally acted up again!  The condition was exactly as I’d described, whereby the transmission would be placed in drive but not be responsive to the throttle and the throttle was also limited, i.e., you could not rev the engine, but would then suddenly “bang” into gear as power was applied gradually. The error code was the same SLT Solenoid fault that was thrown when I first had the problem so we finally had something the folks at Castle Transmission could further diagnose and repair.

While I would have preferred to have not had a transmission issue at all, I must say that I was glad that good fortune kept us from having a break down out on a trip or some other highly inconvenient time and, instead, delivered the truck to a place where they could address the problem. Sadly, the part was only available from Toyota and was more than half of the cost of the job which included a full transmission service with a flush, filter and fill.

With any luck, we have a rear differential that has been rebuilt with new bearings, the transmission is fully serviced and has been rid of a faulty component and a new cross member and transmission support bracket should be on my porch in the next few days which will give as what should be a rejuvenated drivetrain from the bell housing back. As for the front end, a tie rod and connecting rod came apart and the assessment was that either those components and/or the lower control arm and ball joints needed to be replaced.  They were able to put it all back together so the truck was safe to drive, but if the worn parts weren’t replaced the front end of the truck would have handling and tire wear issues in short order.

On Wednesday night we collected the truck from Castle in Acworth, Georgia, and drove the 8 miles over to Alan Cox Automotive in Marietta where we night-dropped it for Nick and the crew to fully diagnose and correct.  Turns out that both ball joints, the tie rods and connecting rod were all pretty much worn out and in need of replacement.  Talk about “when it rains it pours.” Given that I’m pretty much committed to keeping this truck in the family and on the road for another 10 years / 100k miles, we gave Nick the thumbs up to make the repairs.

All told it will end up being a pretty expensive week of auto repairs; however, in the big scheme of things none of these things should ever need to be replaced or repaired again for a long time. Other than lack luster fuel economy, there’s nothing else about this truck that I’d want to change, so I’m OK with the repair costs… so long as the bleeding stops!  I’ve pretty much used up 3/5ths of our annual vehicle repair cost budget and I know Debbie’s little car will need some love this year, at least front tires and I keep waiting for the starter and clutch to demand some attention.  Last year it was a broken engine mount & rear hub/spindle/bearing (ouch).

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Tandem Hauler Begins To Show Its Age… Toyota’s Aren’t What They Used To Be.

So, last year at this time our faithful Toyota Tundra / Tandem Hauler hit 100,000 miles and got a bit of a face lift, er… suspension lift and new tires & wheels.  Now some 10,000 miles and a year later, it’s asking for more attention.

triplet on tundra

Just before Christmas I thought we had a tire-balance issue as there was a wheel-speed vibration / noise coming from the back-end of the truck that was very noticeable at freeway speeds. It was not necessarily something I wanted to listen to for 12 hours straight on our drives to and from Pennsylvania. I took it back to the tire shop for a rebalance and the tire guys gave it a test drive then put in on the rack and traced the noise to a worn-out rear differential pinion bearing.  The shop that works on Debbie’s little Honda S2000 took a look at it and confirmed the diagnosis.  But, they also said it wasn’t anything that required immediate attention, so long as we didn’t mind the subtle noise coming from the back-end.  So, we’ve endured…

This past Thursday the truck through us a new curve ball when the transmission decided to act up while I was out running some errands.  It threw a transmission pressure sensor solenoid code after the transmission started to balk every time I came to a stop and tried to drive away.  The problem disappeared when I dropped it off at the Toyota dealer for what I hoped would be a detailed diagnosis.  Yeah, well… apparently, our Toyota authorize service center is no longer doing repair work; they just remove and replace parts.  So, even though it might just be a $150 solenoid, their quote for repairing the problem was $5,020, i.e., a new transmission.  Apparently they won’t even pull off the lower transmission service panel to service the filters or troubleshoot anymore.

Since I knew the rear differential pinion bearing still needs to be replaced and because there was something going on with the transmission, we dropped it off at a motorcycling friend’s transmission shop.  They’ll take care of the rear differential and see if they can’t figure out what’s going on inside the transmission that would have caused the problem and the pressure solenoid to throw a code.   I’m far more comfortable having them look at it vs. anyone else at this point.  I know the bearing replacement will give me piece of mind and we’ll at least know what could be going on with the transmission by the time we get the truck back later this week.

Screen Shot 2015-04-05 at 9.39.58 PMIf we can clear those two issues I’ll probably order some other parts to replace a transmission support bracket that Toyota issued a TSB on back in 2009 and that our Toyota dealer failed to mention while the work would have been covered under warranty.

Sure would like this truck to carry us another 10 years / 150,00 miles before the drivetrain gives up the ghost.  Of course, as our friend at the transmission shop observed, there was a time when they never saw Toyotas coming in for repairs; not so anymore.

Ref. old vs. new Toyota vehicles, I bought an ’89 SR5 4WD V6 truck new for $18,600 that I sold for $5,500 in 1999 with 250,000 miles and it was still running quite well. The water pump had to be replaced along with the front half shafts, but those were the only big ticket items.  We also had an ’95 Limited 4WD 4Runner that served us well for about 190,000 miles before the top end of the engine made us revisit our long term vehicle strategy.  It was also a very reliable vehicle where the most expensive service was timing belt + water pump replacement.  Gas mileage on all of these trucks has been pretty awful, but the 4Runner was the worst @ 14mpg ave with the Tundra at 16mpg ave (before the big tires) and the ’89 truck was the best @18mph ave, noting it had a manual transmission and was easily the lightest of all three.

 09toy 4runner

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New Colors for Team LGood in 2015

Well, seeing that we’ve not been able to take advantage of our North Atlanta Road Club (NARC) membership for the past few years and never wear our Tour de Cure Team Jerseys except on the day of the event (they’re usually pretty awful), I decided to look elsewhere for some fresh jerseys as we enter the 2015 riding season.

Folks who have been with us at rallies in 2013 and 2014 may recall seeing our pretty obnoxious DrunkCyclist jerseys.

DrunkCyclist is a pen name for a pretty salty urban cyclist / blogger who’s motto is something along the lines of , Bikes, Beer and Boobs… what else is there?  He can be pretty raunchy at times, but it helps to provide a counterpoint to some of the other cycling material I consume, e.g., RedKitePrayer, BicycleQuarterly, BikeRadar, VeloNews, etc… Hey, the cycling community clearly has more tribes than even the motorcycling enthusiast community… if you want to keep a pulse of the entire industry you gotta take the good with the bad.  However, all that said, the DrunkCyclist jersey is pretty awesome: Belgium National Jersey colors (because they make the best beer, right) with some other irreverent icons and, well… “DrunkCyclist” always draws a smile from cyclists and shocks motorists: what could be better.

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.05.45 AMSo, the reason I decided to spend a little white space here on the blog talking about our DrunkCyclist jersey was as a segue to the latest addition to our jersey collection.  You see, the DrunkCyclist jersey is an ‘on-demand’ jersey that you can order from Voler as part of their Partner program.  What I LOVE about this is that the Voler apparel is made in the USA! Yes, Voler is an honest to goodness cut and sew business located in Grover Beach, California (near San Luis Obispo): http://www.voler.com/connect/about/

Anyway, one of the pages I keep an eye on at Facebook is Calfee’s.  I notice they finally began to offer up a new brand jersey, something that we clearly should have in our collection given that we own three of Calfee’s composite bikes.  Low and behold, these weren’t jersey’s that were produced en masse in some Asian or European factory, the Calfee Jersey’s were being offered up through Voler’s Partner program!

Regular readers may recall in my Southern Tandem Rally notice I mentioned I was a Damn Yankee (Northerner who moved to the South and stayed) and might have to wear both blue and grey to the rally in Richmond an an homage to my northern roots as well as my adopted home in the heart of Dixie.  Well, that was merely fore shadowing the new Calfee jerseys being produced for us as we speak by the good folks at Voler in Grover Beach, California:

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.02.45 AM

Now, we’ll most likely be wearing these while riding our non-Calfee triplet with our awesome tail gunner Lisa D at both the Georgia Tandem Rally and Southern Tandem Rally.  But it’s fair to say, we’ll be looking good!

You can see all of the various Voler Partner jerseys at their Website: http://www.voler.com/browse/collections/

Pretty cool stuff.  We tend to stick with things that have some meaning to us, but I will say that if I was to ever buy some jerseys from a shop I’ve never been to, it would be this jersey from Blacktop Cyclery in Bakersfield, California:

Screen Shot 2015-04-04 at 10.41.36 AM

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Spring is Here; Really? … and a note about Panniers.

80°F and sunny in Daytona and sporting a hat to keep my poor scalp from getting sunburned.

So, three weeks ago we were in Louisville and Nashville where they’d just received a few inches of snow.  Two weeks ago we were in Daytona Beach enjoying 80°F weather and getting nice tans.  Last weekend we celebrated the arrival of spring, with one nice day spent doing a bunch of yard work before the rain came in.  This weekend comes along and on Saturday we woke up to clear skies and a temperature of 33°F and then today it was 26°F at the crack of dawn on what looks like another beautiful day. Mother Nature, thanks for the beautiful clear days, but could you crank-up that thermostat a bit?  My sweet Georgia Peach wilts when she gets too cold!

Actually, we did in fact get in a tandem ride on Saturday despite being only 39°F at 11:00am when we rolled out of the driveway.  We’d been invited by friends on Friday night to go on a motorcycle ride at 9:00am Saturday morning. Debbie’s immediate knee-jerk response to that was, “Sh*t, it’s going to be cold”. I offered up a tandem ride a bit later in the day when the temps got into the 40’s and she still wasn’t biting, at first.  Then, a bit later while we were sitting a local pub watching a band she asked me how far it was to North Paulding High School.  I responded, 15 hilly miles; why?  Well, it turns out that our 8-year-old granddaughter Caroline had a lacrosse game at 12:15pm at the high school and, gee…. wouldn’t it be fun to ride to the game on the tandem?  Suddenly, riding in 40°F now had a purpose and she was all in.  So, we sent our regrets to our friends for the motorcycle ride and managed expectation around a brisk, hilly ride out to Paulding County.

However, given the temps and the fact that we’d be stopping mid-ride for about an hour to stand out in the cold, windy weather watching a bunch of little girls with very short legs running around with sticks, we’d need to carry along some warm fleece sweaters to keep ourselves warm, have on hand a few extra garments in case it was even colder on the bike than we expected and have a place to put some of the clothes we were wearing in case we’d over-dressed for the ride.  What to do?  Well, put on the Tubus Fly pannier rack and hang on the Ortlieb panniers that have been sitting pretty much unused for nearly 5 years.

March 2009 photos of our Calfee in full-on touring mode with panniers and mudguards.


I first introduced the rack and panniers to readers in the last entry to my Calfee Journal in March 2009, completing our “year in the life of a Calfee” objective for the journal.  Below are some extracts from that entry:

Tubus Fly Rack & Ortlieb Panniers: I started doing my homework on racks and luggage in mid-November and after checking out the usual sources here in the states I decided to see how the pricing was at some of the European Etailers. I was pleasantly surprised when I stumbled onto the Wiggle site and found theTubus racks and Ortlieb panniers I’d been looking at for prices well below anything I’d found thus far … even in light of what was at that time still a strong British Pound. So, on November 26th I decided to pull the trigger with Wiggle and ordered up a Tubus Fly rack for £37.58 ($56.01) and a Tubus QR Kit for £16.47 ($24.54) to support a work-around to accommodate our short rear stays and the rear disc. I also ordered up a set of Ortlieb Back Roller Plus panniers for £79.65 ($118.72). The icing on the cake was “free shipping” and, as it turned out, no sales tax or duty. My order arrived in a mere week from Germany and while the Tubus racks and Ortlieb bags are really pricey, the engineering, materials, fit and finish are superb.


DSCN1238 DSCN1239

As you can see in the photos above, we’re currently using a rear rim brake so the installation still uses the same Rube-Goldberg mounting hardware but is a no-brainer that takes all of 5 minutes to complete.  However, given the Fly is not made for tandem spacing or a custom Calfee with a disc brake, it wasn’t an out-of-the-box solution:

Like most things that I do, the Tubus Fly rack installation is a bit of a customization. In addition to cold-setting the rack from 130mm to 145mm rear spacing needed for our tandem, I modified the Tubus QR mounting brackets so I could use them to position the rack whereby my rear disc would fall into the rack’s “crotch”. I also had to install a set of fairly wide nylon spacers (they came with the QR kit) to get some extra clearance between the rack and the disc. Finally, I carried over a trick from our Erickson travel tandem for mounting the front rack stay to the tandem whereby an extra seat post clamp is shimmed and trimmed so it can sit on the seat post and function as an anchor point for the rack.

As for the Ortlieb panniers, the engineering of the retention system is a thing of beauty and simplicity.  They clip-on and off in mere seconds with a slight tug on a single pull strap. No bungies or other tie-downs.  In terms of aesthetics, they look awful when they’re not stuffed to the gills, but who cares: whatever’s inside is 100% protected from the elements and you can really put a lot in these things.


You can get an appreciation for how nicely the retention system grips the top rail of the Tubus rack; talk about a match made in heaven.  Even with the relatively short rear wheel stays on our Calfee, heel clearance for Debbie is not an issue with the big bags.

DSCN1241 DSCN1243

Again, they tend to look a bit frumpy when they’re not stuffed to the gills and hanging on the rack, but definitely functional… and that’s what really counts.  Perhaps my decade of reading Jan Heine’s Bicycle Quarterly is beginning to take its toll on my view of the role bicycles play in our lives?! Regardless, I think our days of forgoing the rain gear and other “stuff” to keep our Calfee in racing trim at rides may be coming to an end.  I’m really liking the ability to slap on our quick-release full mud-guards and have learned to ignore the mounting tabs sticking out from either end of the brake calipers and really didn’t take any notice of the panniers on yesterdays’ ride: I certainly couldn’t tell they were back there, albeit with a fairly lightweight load.


So, with our panniers installed and filled with a few extra clothing items and the tools that normally hang off a seat pack under Debbie’s saddle, we headed off towards North Paulding High School promptly at 11:00am.

debbie_NPHS1We arrived about 1.25 hours later after an 18-mile leg feeling pretty good. The sun was bright, but the wind was brisk and the temps still hadn’t gotten into the 40’s. But, we had some fleece jackets to put on so we were good.


DEBBIE_NPHS2And, nothing warms the heart and soul like getting time to spend with your kids and grandkids.  It didn’t take Debbie long at all to get our youngest granddaughter, Vivian Rose, into her arms.  Granddad even got in a little nuzzling time with Ms Vivian.


DEBBIE_NPHS3We also had time to chat and visit with Julie & Wesley, although 6-year old Miss Charlotte was pretty much on the go the whole time we were there so we didn’t see much of her.  Caroline was doing her best out on the field, but at times seemed like she’d rather be learning more about dinosaurs and dragons; she’s a sweetie.

DEBBIE_NPHS4The game ended around 1:15 and after saying our goodbyes and changing back into our long sleeve cycling jerseys and wind vests we were back on the road for the long climbs back to the house.  15 miles and an hour later we were back at home and enjoying the temps that had finally made their way into the 50’s.


Yeah, I know: who’s that? The beard is growing back, but not fast enough. Hair might end up staying short. I like it long, but it’s a PIA to keep in check.

The afternoon was spent doing the required weekend stuff, e.g., laundry, light house cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. before heading off to grab some dinner and then a little us time at the Electric Cowboy.  We definitely need to learn how to do the Texas Two-Step and a few other structured dance steps if we want to hit the hardwoods for anything other than those slow dances.  Line dancing and southern waltzing is where it’s at Cowboys!

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Tandems at the 2015 NAHBS 2015

OK, so here’s my take on the tandems that were on display at the 2015 NAHBS…. and a note of thanks to the folks at places like Bike Rumor, VeloNews, NAHBS, and private individuals who have posted photos to the net, a few of which I’ve poached for this blog entry. I never take enough photos to support everything I’d like to mention. I’m really good a seeing things and remembering, just not taking photos along the way.

NAHBS & Tandems In General: Just some miscellaneous ramblings to start off.

Bottom Line: Tandems are not hot.   No doubt, there were certainly some nice tandems on display at NAHBS, but they weren’t show stoppers.  In fact, the tandems that caught my attention were the Calfee Dragonfly because of its paint job and the Black Sheep ICS family / travel tandem that garnered recognition for Best Tandem at the show.


Interestingly enough, the Black Sheep tandem that took home the best tandem award (photo above) shared a few design cues with the two travel tandems that Bikenky brought to last year’s show (two smaller photos below), e.g., the non-linear, free-flowing tubes and use of different coupling systems on large and small diameter tubes.  This is not to take anything away from the Black Sheep tandem, it really is a spectacular machine.  But the hours of design, fabrication and finish work that went into the Ti Bikenky for last year’s show was certainly worthy of best tandem ITGHO.  Hey, I love Co-Motion, but the Bosch concept tandem (photo below the Bikenky’s) did not rock my world the way Bilenky’s amazing Ti travel tandem did and was more or less a concept bike, not something that was built for a client and headed “out into the field” where it would deliver the cycling joy, pleasure and memories for couples like no other bike.

nahbs2014-bilenky-titanium-breakaway-tandem-touring-bike01 bilenky-white-tandem-bicycle-201401



2015 NAHBS & Tandems: OK, now that I’ve aired my beef with last year’s award selections, let’s get back to what we saw this year and my related thoughts and/or inspirations.

Probably the best measure of what tripped our trigger was the tandem lust factor, i.e., if I was looking to drop a wad of money into a new tandem who would have gotten that check.  Well, there really wasn’t a tandem at the show that we would have taken home — although the Calfee Dragonfly came close and there was something about that brown Co-Motion Robusta that caught my eye — it was really a toss-up between commissioning a titanium tandem from Eriksen, Black Sheep  or DEAN.

  • Kent Eriksen has a pair of tandems at the show with some amazing welds and workmanship.  In fact, Eriksen took away the award for best TIG welds on an unfinished Ti frame that was worked on by Brad Bingham.

EriksenAward2-1024x768 NAHBS-Winners-6

  • DSCN1231Black Sheep, as already mentioned, took away the honors for Best Tandem for a travel tandem that was designed for a parent / child team built around the daVinci Independent Pedaling System (ICS) and that incorporated S&S Bicycle Torque Couplings (BTCS) as well as some other non-S&S frame joint systems to allow it to break down for travel.
  • DEAN, well… I don’t know if John Siegrist has ever made a tandem with a DEAN head badge, but I’d bet Ari Leon would be willing to give it shot! After all, I already have a DEAN Castanza road bike and a DEAN Scout mountain bike, so a one-off DEAN Ti tandem would really complete the set quite nicely if Ari could pull it off.  Gotta say, the welds on my DEANs will give any others a run for their money and there’s just not anything about these bikes that I don’t like!

IMG_20130302_133106_473 VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 W

Of course, at the end of the day, I think we’re more interested in an early retirement that will allow to spend more timing riding the tandems we already have so for the near term I suspect we’ll remain enthusiastic followers of all the great tandem builders who will look for any opportunity to take examples of their wares for an extended series of test rides.  After all, test riding a tandem is like going on a date; you really won’t know what you’ve got until you get to spend a lot more time together when you’re both not trying to be on your best behavior.

With all that said, here’s what we saw while ‘speed dating’ at NAHBS

The UnaTandem by Raymond Bicycle Co.

The first tandem I saw was perhaps the most unusual of the bunch; the Raymond Bicycle Company’s Una Tandem.  As the enthusiastic designer and builder Shawn Raymond described the various features it struck me that what I was looking at was the love child of a Green Gear (aka, Bike Friday) Family Tandem and a Buddy Bike.  For those unfamiliar with these two tandems, the Green Gear Family Tandem (left) is perhaps the most recognizable of the compact 20” wheeled tandem bicycles on the market.  The Buddy Bike (right), which was originally introduced as the Love Bike, is an “adaptable” tandem designed for a parent or caretaker to use with a second, less able rider.

 FamilyTandemTravelerBB102-AL-7-14E 400px

The UnaTandem combines the two to come up with a very short wheelbase tandem that accommodates two riders where, like the Love Bike, the rider in the rear controls the tandem.  The bike incorporates a variety of adjustability features like the Family Tandem that allows it to fit a large ranger of riders.  The exaggerated rake of the fork purportedly gives the tandem full-size wheeled bike handling characteristics.

The builder hopes to progress beyond the limited number of handmade prototypes and into production with the UnaTandem.  I guess my question would be, is there a market for a compact ‘adaptable’ tandem?  Perhaps, but I don’t believe it would be a large market targeted to folks who have such a need or interest who live in urban areas, use mass-transit or who have smaller vehicles / living spaces where a compact tandem would be a good fit.  Institutions might also have an interest so long as the cost was kept low.  Of course, the latter would require mass-production off-shore and that’s where the cost-model usually breaks, i.e., not enough demand to justify the volume needed to hit the price point.

Anyway, that’s my best shot at trying to be objective about the UnaTandem.

Erik Noren of Peacock Grove

Erik Noren, of Peacock Groove.Peacock Groove had a tandem at their “booth” but it really wasn’t on display… it was just there with a nice dried-on coat of mud and slush that I suspect was collected riding on the streets of Louisville which had just been blanketed with snow over the previous two days.  It was a 29″ off-road tandem with full suspension built around a Ventana MFS swing arm, brake bridge, and rocker.  Sadly, I took a photo of it sitting there at NAHBS but it wasn’t a great shot.  So, after sleuthing around on the net I found one that Erik posted a while back.

pgtandemWhile it wasn’t one of his signature deep custom bike finishes, it was a deep custom frame design. The unusual stoker compartment was designed to accommodate a 5′ tall stoker on a 29er with 5″ rear suspension travel and a 5’11” tall captain.  I’d have gone with a more conventional frame design but what seems to set Erik and his Peacock Groove builds apart is the lack of any convention, other than no two are alike. Case in point, check out the gold & green Peacock Groove electric homage to a motorcycle that hides the battery for the Shimano STEPS electric assist system in a faux gas tank. pretty sure it’s also sporting a Maverick inverted fork under all that gold paint.  Check out the video feature!


Very funky and a lot of detail.  Oh yeah, and you can see the two saddles on the tandem sticking up behind the couch in the upper left corner of this photo.  That’s Erik sitting at the table in the green tshirt.  Check him out in this video short:  “Deep Custom”.

Scott Quiring & Quiring Cycles

The next tandems we came across were at Scott Quiring’s booth.  Steve brought along a Titanium 29+ with a nice “mid-size” 3″ tire that would have looked like a really large tire if it weren’t for the steel fat-tire tandem sitting next to it and sporting 26″ x 90mm Nextie composite rims with 4.0″ wide 45NRTH Hucker Du tires sitting right alongside.


Now, let me be completely transparent here and note that I’m so far down the learning curve on fat-tire bikes and tandems that I really can’t offer any meaningful commentary on component selection or design decisions.  That said, what I did see and like about the Quiring tandems was a pretty straight forward, no non-sense approach to the frame construction and Scott was a really nice guy to talk with.  The 29+ was a solid build using a fairly conventional frame design that I’ve seen on a lot of Scott’s tandems.  The welds were excellent; just a great bike.  However, the Fat Bike really was the attention whore with what I believe is 142mm  front / 197mm rear spacing.  2X10 drive train using Middleburn cranks, a custom tandem fork built around Paragon drop-outs and a tapered steerer and a very nicely stepped top tube frame design that just looked right.  I would love to go and play on one of these in the right terrain, as they look to be an absolutely blast.  That said, if I had to pick between the two, the Ti-framed 29+ in the background was really sweet, and I think I’ve seen that same frame built-up with a Ventana rear suspension by Scott as well.

Don Walker, NAHBS Founder/Promoter & Bike Builder

Don Walker had an interesting booth in that you could hardly get near the bikes because they were selling NAHBS pint glasses for $5.00 and filling them with some type of craft beer for free (wink, wink).  I heard someone say the beer tasted like Budweiser… but not having partaken I can’t offer an opinion.  However, of most importance and sadly just about hidden from view by the pint glass sales and draught dispenser was the black and bright green steel 700c road tandem with dual discs, DuraAce, et al, that Don brought to the 2014 show.  It was a really nicely done steel tandem with an eye-catching paint job.  Once again, my photo was pretty sucky so I’ve pirated someone elses that does a better job of showing off the NAHBS and Kentucky native’s handiwork.  Not a fan of the wrap-around paint scheme that I’ve seen showing up on bikes and tandems over the past few years, but it works better in these colors than some others I’ve seen.



However, to really appreciate Don’s skills you sometimes need to look to his more creative side; case in point this a replica of a track bike used during Stayer events.  Stayer racing involved the use of motorcycles pacing the track riders up to speeds of 60 mph as they raced other Stayer teams around a velodrome.  Yeah, pretty intense stuff.  You can learn more about the history of Stayer racing at this link: http://www.bikehugger.com/post/view/stayer-bikes.  The more you read from good sources the more you know!

Selle An Atomica

As regular readers are aware, Miss Debbie switched over to theSelle An Atomica Titanico saddles a couple of years back for use on the road tandem and triplet and couldn’t be happier.  We had a little bump in the road when we purchased a replacement saddle last year only to discover that Selle An Atomica had changed the seat rail design on their saddle frames.  Thankfully we found a new old stock saddle with the original, longer rails and have since learned and confirmed at this near’s NAHBS show that they’ve once again tweaked the frame design to add-back some of the rail length that had been lost.  Now, if they could just come up with a way of making their slotted saddle so that the cover didn’t stretch so darn fast.. or perhaps not at all.  Low and behold, a composite saddle!


No, your eyes are not deceiving you.  In the foreground is a composite saddle cover modeled after theSelle An Atomica standard saddle and bonded to a composite leaf spring foundation with a set of aluminum rails.  The second saddle uses a composite cover attached to their standard steel frame.  The composite covers were every bit as compliant as a properly tensioned leather cover, which was quite intriguing. Obviously, the steel frame doesn’t really take advantage of the weight saving properties of composites as a leather cover isn’t all that much heavier.  However, if the composite leaf spring and aluminum rail element can be developed and made durable enough to meet consumer needs, that would be pretty cool.  There are also some issues with regard to how the composite edges need to be finished to make sure they don’t chaff or cut the riders shorts or flesh in the event of a crash scenario; composites become quite nasty when the edges fray.

So, here’s some real-time additional info on a composite saddle project that Selle An Atomica is looking to develop. Selle just launched a Crowd Funding effort on 23 March whereby they hope to secure 150 backers at $199 a pop within the next 30 days. The $199 investment will net a backer a limited edition of the ultra lightweight saddle with leaf spring damping later this year. For an extra $100, backers can also snag a new leather saddle on top of the promise of the composite model, assuming the project succeeds. When we signed-on at 10:00pm tonight we were the 39th backer, so I’m thinking they’ll hit their goal in far less than 30 days.

Calfee Design

To say that we’re big fans of Calfee’s composite frames would be a gross understatement.  Regular readers will recall that we documented the first year of Calfee ownership in an extensive series of articles written during 2008 that may still be linked off of the Calfee site; not sure about that as I haven’t checked.   Needless to say, we’re still as happy as can be with our Calfee tandem some 7+ years & 25,000+ miles later.  So, now that I’ve shared my bias, let me say that we finally saw a Calfee tandem that looked better than our nude frame at this year’s NAHBS. In fact, it gave me goose bumps when I saw it for the first time… which was apparently a reaction that a lot of folks at Calfee had when it came out of paint.  So, without further a du, here ’tis:


calfeedf2Perhaps it’s just the subtle affinity I once again have developed for the color blue, noting that the blue faux lugs on the Dragonfly are nearly the same color as our sapphire blue Road King.  Who knows, but dang, that was an amazing-looking tandem / paint scheme on that tandem.  You couldn’t have pulled it off with any other frame, as the size of the lugs, the color of the blues and the translucent application that allowed the textures and shade variations of the composite tubeset and lug wrappings to show through really did dazzle in the show lights. I can only image what the bike looked like in broad daylight.

One of the other things that just “looked right” on the Calfee was the Co-Motion designed,T-390 composite disc fork and FSA SL-K crossover crankset.  This was actually the first time I’d seen the T-390 fork and it’s a beast of a thing that requires a really oversized head tube to “work” from a visual / aesthetics standpoint.  In fact, about the only thing that has always looked undersized, but more so now with the massive fork are the rear seat stays.  Now, I will also have to note that this particular Calfee Dragonfly tandem shares a frame design that is very reminiscent of our own custom Calfee, and that’s the steeply sloping top tube and shallow angle of the seat stays that pays homage to Glenn Erickson’s compact tandem frame design concept.  Where it’s most evident is in how tight-in the rear tire is to the seat tube cluster, noting that unlike our rakish Calfee, this one doesn’t even have a brake bridge.

CirrusCycles BodyFloatOh yeah and if you draw your attention up from the seat stays to the stoker seat post it may not be something you’ve seen before. That there is a Cirrus Cycles Body Float suspension seat post. The folks at Calfee’s booth were pretty jazzed about the BodyFloat, but just looking at the numbers it would really have to be a lot better than the parallelogram Thudbuster style suspension posts to bridge the cost and weight gaps.  Time will tell…  but thankfully, Miss  Debbie has never wanted or needed a suspension post on our road tandems, especially the Calfee!

Other “stuff” on the blue Calfee were Ultegra Di2 shifting, Gates carbon drive on the aforementioned FSA SL-K cranks, composite Rolf wheels (somewhat surprised that they weren’t ENVE) and I was somewhat surprised to see Shimano RS785 hydraulic disc calipers on the bike with what I seem to recall were Hope rotors: sure hope they don’t plan to descend Mount Ventoux!  Then again, maybe I’m behind the times on disc technology. I see a lot of TRP mechanical and even the hydro/mechanical brakes showing up on tandems these days.

BTW, while watching the Calfee Manta walk-through tour by Mike Moore on NAHBS’ YouTube video channel I noticed that Debbie & I were caught in the background talking to Steve from Calfee (at least I think it was Steve; I’m so bad with names) about the Dragonfly Tandem.  That would be Miss Debbie in the light blue Harley-Davidson sweatshirt and me in the black and orange Harley-Davidson pit crew shirt:

Anyway, looking past some of the component choices that didn’t tickle my fancy, and as much as I like nude composite and titanium frames, the paint job on this Calfee definitely earned my thumbs up for best tandem finish at NAHBS.  Yeah, that’s saying a lot because the nude Ti frames from Black Sheep, Eriksen and even Quiring were pretty sweet-looking.

Kent Eriksen & Eriksen Cycles

What’s not to love about Eriksen Cycles?  Kent and Katie are both world-class competitive cyclists who occasionally team up and ride on either their road or off-road titanium Eriksen tandems, and that’s really important as the best tandem builders are the ones who actually ride tandems!

Now, if you’re a long-time reader here at our blog you may recall that I did several entries back in 2010 about Eriksen Cycles as well as the man behind the company, Kent Eriksen; you can find them here:

As for what they brought to the show, they had two tandems in their booth. One was a fully-assembled tandem that looked to be a multi-purpose design suitable for the road, touring and perhaps even some light gravel grinding; perhaps another personal tandem made for Kent & Katie?  It was fitted with couplers that split it down the middle, something Kent has advocated for folks who want the ability to reduce the length of the tandem for car transport, shipping or travel but not the full-blown “fits in a regulation suitcase” approach.  It makes a lot of sense and also significantly reduces the cost of the frame, as couplers — particularly the titanium models needed for a Ti frame — aren’t cheap.  Like all Eriksen’s the welds were lovely and clean. The build was a bit unusual in that I believe it used Shimano Ultegra Di2 for the rear derailleur shifting duties, but was set-up with a mechanical front derailleur for a triple crankset operated by the stoker and had what I believe were dual TRP mechanically-operated hydraulic disc brakes controlled by the captain and a rear-only rim brake operated by the stoker like a drag brake using a bar-end shifter.  It’s this hybrid shifting and braking arrangement that makes me wonder if this wasn’t a new personal tandem for Kent & Katie, or perhaps a friend who liked the hybrid shifting braking arrangement they had on a 700c personal tandem that made appearances at several previous NAHBS shows.  To round-out the bling, the build also included an ENVE carbon fork, FSA SL-K cranks and HED Belgium+ rims were a nice compliment to the raw titanium frame with black decals, saddles and bar tape.  Definitely a tandem that was made to be ridden hard in a variety of different conditions.


The second tandem they brought to the show was also a do-it-all road/gravel/cross frame that had not yet been built-up.  The frame was TIG welded by Brad Bingham of Eriksen Cycles and as mentioned earlier, was judged the frame with the The Best TIG Welds at the show:

2015 NAHBS, Winners: Best TIG welded frame

Dwan Shepard & Co-Motion Cycles

Despite what you might think, the highlight of our trip to Louisville was NOT the bikes and tandems.  It was, instead, the people who have made bicycle and tandem fabrication a central part of their lives.  At each and every booth we were routinely met by pleasant, enthusiastic people who were clearly passionate about cycling, bikes and people who were interested in cycling and their bikes.

Right at the top of this list of the best people in the world who you’ll ever meet was a long-time friend who I’d never had the chance to meet.  The latter isn’t all that unusual and is not really something created by the internet; pen pals have existed since man put quill to parchment.  But, in this case, it was the Tandem@Hobbes listserver where I met and became friends with Dwan Shepard of Co-Motion Cycles.  However, since first “chatting” with Dwan via what were essentially Emails-fed threads about tandems back in 1997 I’d never actually met with him face-to-face as he was in Eugene, Oregon and we were in Atlanta, Georgia and never did our paths cross…. until this year’s NAHBS!   However, it was truly a pleasure to finally spend some time with Dwan and that, in and of itself, make the trip worthwhile.  That’s not to say the opportunity to meet with a few other builders was any less enjoyable, but I’m not sure there’s been any other member of the tandem industry who I’ve spent more time corresponding with who I had not yet had a chance to meet.

As for the tandems and bikes that Dwan and his team brought to Louisville, I think Co-Motion did a great job of representing the upper end of the hand-built community as the quality of the workmanship and attention to detail on their “production models” was definitely on par with the one-off, smaller volume and boutique builders.  As hard as I always look at a Co-Motion, it’s rare that I find any glaringly obvious flaws in their incredibly tight weld beads, paint or other finish details.  With few exceptions, the builds are also rock solid and delivery ready parts vs. prototypes or customized configurations that can become a bit of a challenge to support “in the field”, something we’ve experienced with a few of our boutique tandems: nothing insurmountable, but not for the novice owner or shop to deal with.

Now, I will say, the one that did surprise me was how the full line of tandems at Co-Motion have gone to the open frame design.  The internal first disappeared on their high-end racing tandem, the Macchiatto, when it was introduced as a custom order performance frame. The Primera and Mocha lost them next and up and until last year I believe the Speedster still had an internal. However, I noticed that it had done missing this year.

Most of the other recent changes in the Co-Motion tandems have occurred in prior years, such as the PressFit30 bottom brackets, TRP Spyre mechanical disc brakes, tapered head-tube and the T390 disc compatible composite fork.  All of their tandems come with dual mechanical discs.  Nice stuff!

DSCN1224As I look at the Reynolds 631 steel-framed Supremo above and the ACMUltra7 aluminum-framed Robusta below I can vividly recall when these two models were originally introduced.  To see have they have evolved over the years speaks a lot about how “being a great bike” just isn’t good enough to be appealing in today’s market; you have to keep it fresh.  So, change has been and will continue to be a constant in the bicycle and tandem market.

DSCN1225Without a doubt, the one thing that really caught my attention from Co-Motion was the composite T390 composite, disc brake compatible fork that I believe they introduced last year.  This is a follow to their internally developed Tandem Elite composite fork; an Elite fork on Steroids!  Seriously, the fork is massive-looking from the oversized crown that integrates to the massively large lower inset tapered headset compatible head tube, to the gobs of tire clearance — enough to probably get Jan Heine excited — and then there’s the fork legs, disc brake mount and drop-outs: massive, massive, massive.  Sadly, I’m pretty sure the fork would be a bat fit for our Calfee in that it’s not a single bike fork with short fork legs and narrow crown that’s been beefed up for tandems, it’s an honest-to-goodness tandem fork that probably makes tandems fitted with the for handle/steer like it’s on rails.  Personally, I think it’s a better fit on tandem frames with larger diameter tubing and deep section rims, as it tends to look almost too big on frames that have standard diameter steel tubing and/or box rims.  I’m also guessing a tandem also needs to have a tapered headset to work with the fork which limits backwards compatibility; I could be wrong about this as I did not investigate.
DSCN1226 DSCN1227

ITGHO, you can’t go wrong with Co-Motion as a first time tandem buyer so long as you find a good dealer who knows tandems or is a pro shop that has a good reputation for delivering tandems that work well right out the door.  And, to be honest, unless you find you have a passion for boutique tandems, you’ll probably ride that Co-Motion until you are finally lured-in by technology, design changes or other cool stuff that builders are constantly trying to identify to keep their products fresh.  That’s one of the amazing things about bicycles when you consider that the basic safety bicycle design that we ride today was perfected 120 years ago.  Everything that’s come since then has been a refinement and evolution, with very few revolutionary changes.  Embrace the love!

John Bleakley & Black Sheep Bikes

Black Sheep Bikes has consistently turned-out some of the most eye-watering titanium frame designs year-after-year-after-year.  I’m pretty sure I’ve commented on a few in previous post-NAHBS blog entries since that’s where I typically get to see what they brought to the show.  Most of the eye candy is single bikes: speedster single speed, hard tail mountain bikes, 36″ wheeled ZEM concept development bike and the list goes on. They’ve also shown up with a pretty cool gravel grinder tandem (Jack’s Bike) in the past, a two-seat version of Jack C’s Black Sheep Luna Vista.

speedster 36_zamBlack-Sheep-Bikes

The man behind Black Sheep, James Bleakley, is like many bike builders in that their background and experiences speak to following their passion, not chasing the big bucks. While both career pursuits come with their sacrifices, you gotta love folks who truly do love what they do more so than the trappings of more conventional career pursuits. This is why we as enthusiasts are so passionate about the bikes these folks build; we buy their frames because they mean more than “woo hoo, I have a nice bike to go and ride.”

That all brings me back to the tandem that he brought to this year’s NAHBS, one that will allow an adult to ride with a child until they are an adult vis-a-via a sleeved, telescoping rear seat tube (similar to a Co-Motion Periscope) that will allow short as well as tall riders to have a good fit on the bike.

2015 NAHBS, Winners: Best Tandem

The frame also incorporated S&S Bicycle Torque Couplings (BTCs) on the boom and internal tube and four pair of custom chain stay – bolt together joints, similar to the ones that first began to show up as builders came up with different ways to break the drive-side chain stay to allow installation and removal of the Gates drive belts.  It was also a bit unusual in that it was built around the daVinci Independent Coasting System (ICS), something you don’t often see on a non-daVinci tandem.  It also had daVinci’s beautiful cranks and owing to the bikes flexible nature, the three pedal position kid cranks in back. It’s worth noting that James spent several years building titanium and other frames for daVinci as well as another builder near and dear to my heart, DEAN.  Another obvious feature was the trademark Black Sheep truss fork.  The dual discs and ENVE composite wheels also jumped out at you, but what really caught my eye was what appeared to be a hybrid Di2 shifting system that mated DuraAce Di2 levers with the XTR Di2 derailleurs. Now, to make that work the ICS has only two drive cogs vs. the four that you see on every other daVinci ICS, so it’s a 2×10 drive system vs. 4×10 standard system.  I would have really liked to have had some time with John to investigate that a bit more closely as I’d love to know how that has worked.  With all of the other high-end Ti bits and custom features I’m guessing this would be about an 18k machine, all said and done.  I’ll leave you with a few photos and one last observation: each Black Sheep custom bike also has its own, unique head tube badge that speaks to something about the design.  If you ever see a Black Sheep, check it out and see if you can break the code.

DSCN1229 DSCN1230 DSCN1231

2015 NAHBS, Road & Track Bikes: Tandem Transmission


Yeah, it really was the best tandem at the show… no question about it this year.  The workmanship, innovations, design and if all of that weren’t enough, John Bleakley is a native of Louisville, Kentucky who went west to Colorado for college.  It’s nice when all of that can come together.

Steve Bilenky & Tom Faust of Bilenky Cycle Works

Another long-time-in-coming introduction happened at the Bilenky Cycle Works booth.  Similar to my relationship with Dwan, Steve Bilenky is someone who I originally came to know via the Tandem@Hobbes listserver back in 1997. Steve and others at Bilenky would weigh-in on tandem technology and design subjects back when those topics were the norm at Hobbes.  Steve and his small crew at Bilenky Cycle Works in Philadelphia have always had a special place in my heart as they more than anyone else have always been cool, funky and built soul into their bikes and tandems.  They were hipsters before there was any such thing as hipsters, sporting functional as well as ornamental facial hair, making music together after the put the torches down and building bikes the old school way in a small block building  in the corner of a junk yard up against an active set of train tracks.  What’s not to love about that?

I keep kicking myself for not snapping up a 650b tandem they built for a Vintage Bicycle Quarterly review by Jan Heine and took to the 2010 NAHBS show where it won Best Tandem.  I feared that it was too big for us, but in fact, later learned that we may have been able to “make it fit”, albeit with the saddles buried in the seat tubes.  You can read more about the bike in a December 2010 blog entry.  There’s also a really nice article here that talks about the folks who were at Bilenky back in 2010 that ties in nicely with the 650B project.

Anyway, getting back to this year’s show, I finally got to shake hands and talk with both Steve Bilenky and his right hand Tom Faust at their always busy booth.  Seriously, it was hard to find a time when they weren’t covered up with visitors chatting them up or looking closely at the various bikes they brought to the show, several of which were located in other displays around the NAHBS show floor.

Although it was mostly chit-chat about the tandem they brought back to this year’s show, getting passed over last year, his daughter Bina and their business in general, it was a pleasure to connect with Tom & Steve.  Talk about nice guys who are all-in to their work.


The tandem they had on display was one of the two they brought last year.  Of course, like anything Bilenky builds, there tends to be a backstory that sheds a lot of light and opens up your understanding of why a certain bike looks or is equipped in a certain way.  The tandem pictured below was the 9th of 9 Bilenky bikes that Steve and his crew have made for a client couple in the Philly area.  The client and their stoker are both accomplished cyclists and randonneurs who have completed the Paris-Brest-Paris, etc.  What the clients wanted was a pleasure bike, along the lines of the classic 1950’s Schwinn Town & Country (see below), but with couplers so it could be downsized when needed.


Talk about a great modern interpretation on a classic and somewhat utilitarian design. Like several Schwinn tandems, including the handmade Paramounts, the Town & County used a curved rear seat tube to shorten the wheel base likely owning to conventional wisdom that a shorter wheelbase is somehow better. Hey, we ride a triplet… it corners like its on rails.  Be that as it may, you have to appreciate how Bilenky picked up on the single, sexy curved seat post and applied that lovely bend to the top, internal and down tubes to give the bike an artistic flair that was missing from the original. The attention to detail is amazing in this build: custom guards for the sync & drive chains, retro stem-mounted single friction shift lever for the rear derailleur, faux lugs with gold pinstriping, color-matched mud & chain guards, color-matched front rack, and on and on.


Bilenky_NAHBS_2015_Gaffney3 Bilenky_NAHBS_2015_Gaffney2philly-bike-expo-2014-1In a word, fun!  Sure, there are few things you could nit pick about, you could even be aghast that the bike was a little dirty from having been ridden.  I like to think of that as a fine patina and evidence that this wasn’t a show bike, but someone’s pride and joy on loan to help out a friend headed to a show.  Just amazing stuff.

And, I will say, I do find that I’ve become far more accepting and appreciative of mud guards and the ability to affix luggage to a tandem the less hard-core I become about cycling.  Case in point, it was nice to be able to throw the Tubus rack on the Calfee and affix the Ortleib panniers today so that we could take extra clothing along with us on a ride with a mid-point stop.  Of course, once the rack is on the bike the bike screams to have the mud guards put on so that it looks like a complete bicycle, not a racer’s bike…. as were certainly not racers.  Yes, practicality is beginning to shift my sense of style in a big way!  And, through it all, the folks at Bilenky have been there showing folks the way.  Damn, I really wish I’d have snapped up that 650B!


Wow. That’s all I can say when I think back on our NAHBS experience.  The sights and people who we were able to meet were well worth the $22/pp admission to ensure that the show continues to succeed.  We even got to meet another friend from Hobbes who was just attending the show; Jay Hardcastle. That was really neat.

Here’s the deal, anyone who’s within spitting distance of the NAHBS and who really appreciates the hand-made bicycle movement will be in awe of what they see at the show.  It’s one thing to see a great one-off custom bike now and again.  At NAHBS, you actually get a point where you suddenly find yourself in pinch me mode; these are all one-off customs!  No, not every one of the bikes will resonate with every bike they see.  I certainly had my favorites and quite frankly, most of them were not tandems. Hey, I like tandems a lot and have spent a lot of time trying to get good information in the hands of consumers in the hope that more people will give tandems a shot and have a good first experience that keeps them in the niche.  But, at the end of the day, I’m really a bike geek who likes just about anything with two wheels, even those fuel consuming, fire-breathing motorized two-wheel machines.

In closing, what NAHBS reminded me of is that what I’m really hooked on is talented people.  Awesome bicycle frames and bicycle parts and accessories are all made possible by people with a passion for the sport who turned that passion into a business.  If I won the lottery you can bet that I’d make sure a lot of these folks had a little more work on their hands, as they all have something exciting and amazing to offer.



Posted in Bloggishnish, Classic Tandems, Events, Industry News, Technology & Equip. | 7 Comments

New Entries At Riding Two-Up

369252March was mostly about pulling the cover off of our Harley-Davidson touring bike after nearly three months of real winter weather that kept us off the road, and getting ready for our mid-month trip down to Daytona. Through it all, my trusty and oft time abused BMW has continued to give me my daily fix of two-wheel, big-bike therapy… something I don’t take for granted.  Anyway, what I lacked in article publication in March is made up for in the length of the Daytona piece; yeah, it’s a big one!

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