When Good Laptops Go Bad…. Thank You MicroCenter!

20161008_144215My trusty five-year old Apple MacBook Pro – a fairly souped-up 2.2 GHz Intel Core i7 with 17″ display — decided to stop working while we were out of town on a trip last week.  It had been working just fine, albeit a bit slow on start-ups, but otherwise still delivering flawless performance. However, after putting it to sleep before heading out for Friday’s ride at the Southern Tandem Rally on this past Friday I attempted to wake it up upon our return some 6 hours later and despite several reboots in various safe modes and with other features locked-up, the MacBook Pro simply wouldn’t go past about 30% complete on the start-up.

I finally gave up after running on-line diagnostics that said everything was fine and a few other tricks that usually bring a MacBook out of a cold sleep and took it to MicroCenter in Marietta, Georgia, on Monday, October 10th as they still sell and service Apple computers.

Their Apple Tech Lance called on Tuesday with a bad news / good news story.  The bad news was the $500 Logic Board (aka, Mother Board) had failed and it along with two other components on the Logic Board needed to be replaced. The good news was, Apple had issued a recall on the Logic Board on these particular laptops and all costs associated with that repair we’re covered, including MicroCenter’s $40 diagnostics.

I received a follow-up call from Lance on Thursday, October 13th letting me know my laptop was now up and running with the new Logic Board and had no other issues: I was good to go!

Well… almost good to go.  I’d stopped backing up my laptop a while back as the drive that I was using didn’t really work all that well.  So, before leaving the store I stopped back at the Apple sales department and picked up a 3TB Western Digital Passport backup drive so that I could back-up the entire 1TB hard drive on one partition, and then use a second partition for my time-machine / daily data back-ups.  I’ll probably use the 3rd partition to go and back-up my older MacBook.

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A Tandem Rally in the Hills of Tennessee


Given how tandem rallies have been restructured around folks who are no longer part of the 9-5 working world,  we now feel compelled to travel on Thursday nights and pick up the cost of an additional day’s lodging so we can be on hand to make the Friday morning mass start at 8:30am. In the old days we’d travel on Friday mornings and arrive in time for an afternoon “warm-up ride” ahead of a two-day tandem rally which we really enjoyed.

Be that as it may, the drive up to Cookeville, Tennessee, was about 3 hours and because traffic around Atlanta remains a mess until 6:30pm or 7:00pm, we had just enough time to get home from work on Thursday, throw our bags in the truck and then head north such that we’d arrive before 11:00pm.  It was a relatively easy drive up I75 to I24 around Chattanooga and then north on Route 27 to Route 111.  We arrived at the Country Suites in Cookeville, TN, around 10:30pm.  Well, I say 10:30pm.  Turns out, Cookeville is on Central Time so it really was only 9:30pm, not that you could tell by the empty lobby.


It wasn’t until Friday morning that I realized we were on Central Time: we’d gone to bed assuming we were on Eastern Time only to discover when we headed down to the near empty breakfast area at what we assumed was 6:45am and realized it was actually 5:45am.  Oh well…  better early than late.

As others joined us it was good to see friends, many of whom we’d not seen in a while as we only attend one or two tandem rallies a year, whereas in years past we’d go to about five. Much to our surprise, we also found our dear friends Brenda & James on hand at the rally… a couple whom we would almost always ride with at every rally but who haven’t been able to attend any rallies for several years.  Don’t get me wrong, we enjoy all of our other tandem friends but Brenda & James were our partners in crime and riding companions at well over 20 tandem rallies. We had missed them dearly so it was a real treat to get time with them both on and off the tandem.

screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-8-23-05-pmWe opted to do the 44 mile “medium” distance for Friday’s ride as our base miles and riding tempo were well off the mark from what we’d need to suck wheels behind the A Teams at the rally.  In fact, we were curious if we’d even be able to hang with the B Teams. Our initial riding group included Brenda & James (Murfreesboro, TN), Eric, Linda & Lisa (Atlanta, GA & Clemson, SC) on Lisa’s triplet, Denny & Stephanie (Chattanooga, TN) and Ryan & Christian (Richmond, VA).  We maintained a nice pace over the ample hills that we encountered along the route and made a point of staying with Brenda & James as no one wants to be at a tandem rally with 72 other teams and find themselves riding alone. The weather was nearly perfect, with temps in the high 70’s to low 80’s, low humidity and lots of sunshine. After an amazing decent where Miss Debbie urged restraint on my part we came to a collection of other tandem teams that had taken a break on what appeared to be a fairly rough side road.


Little did we realize this was the road we’d be on for the next several miles!  After a nice break and after adding several more tandems to our group we made our way around the valley and began a gradual climb that suddenly became far less than gradual in a very short time (see below for the “bathtub” effect of the descent and subsequent climb).


Our long-time friends from Atlanta, Roger & Eve, helped pace us up the climb such that we finished on the bike instead of on foot as a lot of teams were forced to do.  As much as we cuss and fuss during those climbs, there’s always a pretty good sense of accomplishment once you get to the top!

The rest of the ride was fairly uneventful for us, although our friends Roger & Eve developed some type of an issue with their Spinergy rear wheel that consumed their afternoon and patience with a local bike shop that probably had no business trying to work on a high-end specialty wheel with which they had no experience.  Our only “mechanical” was a persistent clicking sound that was coming from the rear bottom bracket that I dealt with after our ride.

Lunch was an on-your-own affair and acting on a recommendation from the fantastic Country Suites Inn staff, we headed to Father Tom’s in downtown Cookeville for lunch.  Let’s just say we found the Cookeville equivalent of Loco Willy’s, sans any TVs.  It was a pub with amazing food, a loyal and attentive staff and just the right vibe. Debbie and I split their version of a Reuben (the Neuben) and the house salad, which was equally amazing.  Looking up and down the table there wasn’t a meal that didn’t look wonderful or that wasn’t enjoyed immensely.

After visiting the local bike shop across the street from Father Toms we headed back to the hotel to relax and clean up a bit: it was already well into the middle of the afternoon. father-tom-s-pubDinner that evening was also “own your own” and you know exactly where we went: Father Tom’s!  We split “The Jack” which was described on the menu as a deconstructed shepherd’s pie with thinly sliced tenderloin topped by pea encrusted mashed potatoes and an au jus that was out of this world with the same delicious side salad from lunch.  Denny & Stephanie joined us as we were finishing our meal and had the same thing: yummy stuff! In fact, we were tempted to skip the ice cream social at a nearby shop and have Father Tom’s raspberry brownie with ice cream and a raspberry topping.

The ice cream social was a nice affair but after leaving we and several friends headed back to Father Tom’s yet again for a night cap before calling it a night and returning to the hotel.  I should note that throughout the day we were doing our best to keep tabs on the many friends we have who live along the Eastern coast of Florida, in places like St. Augustine, Jacksonville, and further North in the Carolinas.  Thankfully, I don’t believe any of them suffered any catastrophic damage as a result of the storm, but a full accounting is still needed to be certain.


screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-8-22-39-pmOn the bright side, at least we knew what time it really was when we woke up on Saturday morning.  Breakfast was pretty much the same as the day prior and before we knew it we were outside getting ready for our ride where the weather was nothing like the day prior.  Instead of a warm sunny morning we had temps in the upper 60’s with a blustery wind and overcast skies as we headed out on the medium length 57-mile route with pretty much the same group from Friday, plus a few others such as Greg & Angela from Tallahassee, FL.

Early into the ride I made the mistake of stopping to help someone with a problem of unknown type and quickly realized there wasn’t much I could do as their chain and drivetrain were woefully in need of cleaning and lubrication. The chain had a very stiff link and there was no real way to fix it out on the road without having a few more tools and cleaning supplies.  I did my best to apply some lubricant that they had on hand and to work the stiff section of chain back-and-forth in an effort to loosen it up but it didn’t look promising. I suggested that they might be able to ride the stiffness out now that it was loosened up a bit but without a chain tool and degreaser it would be hard to get working correctly. Honestly, I felt awful leaving them still on the side of the road after being of little assistance but we needed to get back to our own ride.  I believe I heard later that they did, in fact, have to get sagged-in.

We found our friends a short distance up the road a piece who graciously waited for us at a church who quickly rejoined us as we passed.  We had a good ride out to lunch, again with many hills and a stiff wind often times hitting us in the face but mostly at our backs.  While the tail wind was appreciated in the morning, we were not looking forward to the ride back into that same wind later after having lunch.

Speaking of lunch, it was hosted in a church near downtown Sparta, TN, and the meal was actually quite good. We enjoyed our time at lunch sitting with Jim & Sonja from the Pittsburg area who also had a winter home near Daytona Beach who would be headed down to Florida after the tandem rally to check on their property, knowing there’d be some down trees, etc.

We opted not to wander around Sparta while some of our friends did, so the morning group was now reduced to just four couples: us plus Roger & Eve, Denny & Stephanie & Greg & Angela.  Eric, Linda & Lisa along with Brenda & James and Ryan & Christian took advantage of the annual Lester Flatt Celebration in Sparta where they had a Lester Flatt tribute band (Sparta was his home) and other goings on….

The ride back to Cookeville was as expected: hilly and into a stiff headwind for nearly all of the 20 mile journey: that would be the right 1/3d of the image below.  We’d spent most of the morning pulling our friends and started out doing the same coming out of Sparta. However, Denny & Stephanie took the lead for the last 15 miles and we eventually began to leave Greg & Angela behind.  Debbie and I opted to let Denny & Stephanie and Roger & Eve go off the front and we paired up with Greg & Angela so they didn’t end up in no man’s land facing the hills and stiff headwinds alone.


20161008_155427After getting back to the hotel and cleaned-up Debbie and I headed off to a nearby Buffalo Wild Wings to see if we could find a seat at the bar and watch the college games.  We lucked out and had a wonderful afternoon with Zakysha, a lovely gal from Atlanta!  We snacked on some soft pretzels as well as some spinach and artichoke dip to see if we couldn’t get our sodium levels back up to snuff!  BTW, if you ever wondered why everyone working at Buffalo’s wear’s a jersey with the number 82, that’s the year Buffalo’s first store opened.

As much as we wanted to just stay and have dinner at the bar, we pulled ourselves away and headed back to downtown Cookeville where the ubiquitous Saturday evening banquet was being held about 50 yards from Father Tom’s: yet another temptation. We arrived just as the social hour ended and found seats at a table with Lisa, Brenda & James and our friends Larry & Martha also from Murfreesboro, TN.

I probably need to send out apology cards to our friends as I was quite restless and in a strange mood when we arrived.  Adding to my woes, our table somehow ended up being the last one called to go through the buffet line. While I wasn’t all that hungry, after waiting for Debbie and our other table mates to reach the buffet line I  joined them and confirmed what I suspected: the featured item of the buffet had been fully consumed and our friends were left with chicken over pasta as their only choice.  Debbie had some of the pasta with a marinara sauce and I passed as I had no real appetite anyway.

Again, being all out of sorts at that point, I invited Debbie to leave before the announcements began as I as I still in a strange mood and not exactly adding to the enjoyment of the evening for our table mates, something I remain upset with myself about.   I say this because I vividly remember finding myself being out of sorts at STR in Cullman, Alabama, where we also left the rally banquet early and headed to a local sports bar to watch college football. Rallies are supposed to be places that provide you with a lift, relaxation and an opportunity to share good times with friends. I get the lift, but for some reason it doesn’t last, I never really feel relaxed  and that, in turn, makes me someone I wouldn’t want to be around: perhaps I need an intervention.

While our friends probably assumed we went back to Father Tom’s for dinner after making our exit from the banquet hall, we instead returned to the hotel, checked out and headed for home.  Now, I should note that we’d already advised our friends we wouldn’t be riding on Sunday as Debbie’s backside was a bit sore and chaffed from Friday & Saturday’s ride.  So, at this point, spending the night just to wake up and then face a four hour (three hours + time zone change) back to Atlanta where we’d have a full day of chores waiting for us didn’t seem as attractive as an option of heading home at 8:00pm and arriving shortly before midnight so we could sleep in our own beds.

We also had a bit of a surprise when I stopped for gas near Rocky Face, Georgia and found nearly all the stations closed or with their pump handles bagged. Thankfully, the BP station had Premium. But, despite those few notable mentions, we were both glad to be home and in our own beds at the end of the day.

All-in-all, it was great to see and spend time with our cycling friends.  We enjoyed the two days of cycling that we participated in, the host hotel and staff was excellent and we really enjoyed our visits to Father Tom’s and even Buffalo’s.   I do think that we may have to re-evaluate our future rally plans and give up on Thursday evenings and the Friday mass starts to better suit our schedule. We’ll see…

Posted in Tandem Folks, Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

Southern Tandem Rally’s Just Around the Corner

Hard to believe we’re at T-1 week until the Southern Tandem Rally (STR) in Cookeville, Tennessee.  We’d hoped to have a few more cycling miles under our belts by the time the rally arrived but it just wasn’t in the cards for us.  However, we’ve been getting in at least one 25-30 mile ride just about every weekend that we’re in town.

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-3-44-26-pmLooking at the weather it looks like we’ll be in for a rude awakening at least with regard to the temperatures we’ll get to enjoy on Saturday and Sunday morning.  Even up and until today we were waking up to temps in the mid-50’s that would climb to the mid-to high 60’s before we headed out for a ride. Not so at a tandem rally where riders’s meetings tend to be held at 8:30ish when those temps will still be in the 50’s (we hope at least the 50’s).  Anyway, we’ll definitely be packing the knickers, arm warmers, wind vests, ear warmers and gloves for STR, at least based on the long-range outlook.  And, remembering that it is a long-range outlook, it could be mid-80’s with a 100% chance of rain by next weekend so there’s always that to consider.  Regardless of what mother nature has in store for us short of 100% T-Storms for 3 days (like last year’s STR in Richmond, VA), we’ll make the trip and make the best of it.

After Saturday’s loop ride it dawned on me that I should probably check the rear tire for wear and clean/relube the drive train components.  I also needed to chase down some pesky clicking sounds that were probably coming from our Speedplay Frog pedals and the bottom brackets.

Once home, sure enough the rear tire — which was actually a used tire that I put on a few months back — was starting to show small spots where the casing was peeking through the tread compound.  The chains, sprockets on the drive and cross-over cranks and rear cassette were also in need of cleaning, just as suspected.  So the better part of the afternoon was spent pulling off the chains, cranks, wheels and bottom brackets so they could be serviced and re-installed. The Frog pedals also received an injection of grease after the cranks were re-installed.


And yes, the workspace is a bit cramped when I’m too lazing to move the motorcycles out of the garage…

20161001_16244423 year-old ‘el cheapo’ parts cleaner still in service and doing it’s thing using ZEP citrus degreaser, noting ZEP makes this stuff about 10 miles down the road from us: good stuff! And, yes, I’m still ‘cooking’ my chains in a paraffin hot melt wax bath that is stored/cooked in a 20 year-old Fry Daddy.  Yup, I’m old school but since we don’t ride in the rain all that often, the paraffin + various other petroleum products works well and keeps our drive train cleaner than any thing else I’ve ever tried.

20161001_163012 20161001_162924

DSCN1255I also got around to swapping stems around on bikes such that the spare Thomson two-bolt road stem that I’d put on my Dean Scout hardtail mountain bike was moved to the Calfee tandem to replace an identical one that I noticed a crack in back in April 2015.  What make me think to change it out was seeing an identical two-bolt Thomson stem that had failed on our friend Alex’s single mountain bike.  The Ritchey WCS four-bolt stem that was on the Calfee was moved to the Dean Scout, which is probably prudent.


20161001_175156screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-6-08-56-pmAnyway, at least as far as the tandem goes, it’s ready for the 190 mile, 3 hour drive up to Cookeville on Thursday night after we get home from work. I’m thinking we’ll let traffic settle down a bit and head out around 7:00pm, which will put us in Cookeville around 10:00pm.  So, no Thursday night festivities for us: those will have to wait until we retire.  Funny how when we started going to tandem rallies in the 90’s they were just 3 day events that began on Friday afternoon’s with an on-your-on ride.  We were the youngsters back then and quite frankly, we’re still seeing the same folks at rallies who we saw back in the 90’s and I’d venture a guess that 1/2 of them are either partially or fully-retired. Hence, the expansion of event schedules and increased costs associated with extra night’s stays.  Sign, just a sign of the times.

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Motorists: some of them really are idiots…

…but then again, so are some of the people who ride bicycles on public roads.

I have no idea how to turn the tide, but I have clearly observed an erosion of motorist acceptance or at least tolerance for cyclists here in our little part of the world.  At the same time, I’ve also seen three types of “people on bike” behaviors that do nothing to reduce motorist angst:

  • The unpredictable civilians on bicycles in street clothes who use them for transportation because that’s all their budget will afford them and who typically end up being on roads and sidewalks during commute times. They’ll ride against traffic instead of with it, jump from sidewalks to street and back, ride in crosswalks as if they were pedestrians, etc.  As a motorist and motorcyclist, these folks scare the bejeezus out of me so I’m sympathetic to motorists who develop a bias against the presence of people on bicycles on public roads.  However, unlike most other cyclists who are also motorists, the non-cycling public doesn’t draw a distinction between someone on a Walmart Schwinn in blue jeans, flannel shirt and ball cap and someone on a $5,000 Trek Madone in a cycling kit and helmet: they’re just idiots on bicycles where they don’t belong.
  • The urban cyclists / bicycle messengers in quasi street clothes who also tend to ride their fixies, single speeds or “cross bikes” in congested areas during drive time and, like the first group, don’t adhere to the rules for the road but with focused intent: they look at the motoring and pedestrian world as an obstacle course where the goal is to get through it as quickly as possible without regard for how their behavior helps to shape negative images of cyclists to the non-cycling public. Again, as a motorist and motorcyclist I’m put off by these folks on bicycles as well, more so than the first group because of the arrogant attitude that seems to go along with the genre. Once agin, to non-cyclists anyone on a bike is just another idiot riding a bicycle where it shouldn’t be, reinforced by the lack of respect for the rules for the road and “game playing” nature of their riding behaviors.
  • The club riders who ride in groups and bottle up traffic.  I don’t think I need to spend too much time describing this group as many of us have probably been part of one at some point in our life or at least encountered them on a Saturday or Sunday morning.. or worse yet, in the late afternoon in urban areas towards the end of commute time.  This is the group that probably causes trouble for the average cycling enthusiast who is out riding in a cycling kit or kit-like lycra clothing with helmets on road-racing inspired bicycles since any angst that has been created by the aforementioned group gets dropped on the lone cyclist or, in our case, the lone couple out for a ride on their tandem.

What brought all of this to the fore was an encounter with a motorist on yesterday’s afternoon tandem ride.  I should note that the road we were on — Due West Road at the far-west end that I refer to as the Paulding County Connector — seems to have more than their fare share of motorists who like to pass us with minimal distance with or without on-coming traffic and/or otherwise make it known that they don’t like sharing the road with cyclists.  In this instance we had a large lifted crew cab Dodge 4WD diesel come up behind us while we were rolling along at about 25 mph in a 35 mile section of road who had to pause for a moment until there was a break in on-coming traffic: that all seemed good.  However, as soon as he was clear of us he decided to “Roll Coal” for about 50 yards down the road “just for fun” and to immerse us in a cloud of sooty black diesel exhaust.  My immediate thought was, “Were you born an asshole or did you just grow into it?”  It was a rhetorical question given where we live, as we have more than our fair share of proud 3rd through 1st generation rednecks who go out of their way to demonstrate the stereotype as  often as possible.

lets-be-careful-out-thereSo, to our fellow tandem enthusiasts, do your best to remain visible and don’t be gutter bunnies. Know your roads and ride defensively.  The only way I’ve found to maximize our survivability along this stretch of road is to ride a foot to the left of the fog line so that motorists have to yield to on-coming traffic instead of trying to squeeze by since they’re obviously unaware of Georgia’s 3-foot law and otherwise more concerned about getting to Starbucks 4 seconds faster than our getting home safely.  After all, we’re just idiots on bicycles riding where we don’t belong.

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Over at Riding Two-Up

Version 2It’s been a while since I posted one of these compendiums of postings over at my other blog so what you see below is pretty much all of August and September.  As a reminder, these are mostly weekly journals that I write just to capture what we did over the preceding week to serve three purposes: (1) for future reference for my sometimes faulty memory, (2) it assists me in building a photo archive and (3) it gets printed out and sent off to my mother so she can keep up with what we’ve been doing as she does not use a computer or smart phone.  I say that to temper expectations about the content, as it can be somewhat unspectacular, i.e., recounting dinner out every Friday & Saturday, weekly tandem and motorcycle ride mentions, etc., with very similar selfies week to week.  Now, there will also be some one-off mentions and anecdotes about motorcycle issues or home projects and non-cycling trips. It’s clearly not for everyone so just putting that out there.

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Which Wins Out: Cycling or Motorcycling??

20160924_101923It’s definitely a balancing act when it comes to making time for home maintenance, cycling, motorcycling, maintaining social calendars and our other interests.  Our goal is to always try to get at least one tandem ride and a motorcycle ride in each weekend, even if the motorcycle ride is just a trip to one of our local hang-outs for lunch on Sunday.

It goes without saying, we’re always happier when we have our knees in the breeze getting some wind therapy.  And, lest anyone think otherwise we continue to maintain that if we had to give up cycling or motorcycling it’s an easy call: cycling is the keeper.  Thankfully, I don’t imagine that we’d ever have to make that kind of a decision. Anything that would keep us from cycling would likely keep us from motorcycling and visa versa.

So, at least for this weekend, we were blessed to have two beautiful days for cycling…


…and motorcycling.


It’s all good!

Posted in Bloggishnish | 1 Comment

Maddock Machine – Mad Dog Drum Brake Update

About a week ago I posted a solicitation for consumer feedback on the Maddock Machine “Mad Dog Drum Brake” (MDDB) to both the Tandem@Hobbes mailing list (yes, it’s still out there after 26 years in its original Listserver format) and the BikeForum.net Tandem forum along the lines of:

Just curious if any Hobbsians have any first hand experience with the Maddock Machine “Mad Dog Drag Brake” (sometimes called Maddox Drum Brake).

I wrote a piece on the brake during its development and then again shortly after its release in July 2013 and am curious to hear from users on how it has performed in the field. Just trying to come up with a balanced 3-year update as that particular blog seems to get a lot of traffic.

Feel free to shoot me a private Email or to reply here.

To date, just one lone reply from a loyal follower of our blog — Eric — who has one installed A MDDB on their quad but without sufficient use to offer much in the way of feedback on long-term use.  However, it was nice to hear from someone who actually bought one.

4513_editedFor those who may not be familiar with the MDDB (sometimes called the Maddox Drum Brake), it was developed by Tom Maddock of Maddock Machine when the only other drum brake that had been available for tandems — the Arai — was no longer going to be produced by the current owner of the intellectual property.  The Arai was a time-tested and proven drum brake that served a niche market with the tandem community that had a need for a constant-on / high-heat capacity brake to deal with long, steep descents or heavily loaded tandems.

I first wrote about the MDDB development activity in a blog entry back in November 2010 that you can read here. At that time they were looking for tandem teams who could support the beta test program.

My next mention was in July 2013 when it finally came on the market: that blog entry can be found here.  Distribution channels were pretty narrow given that during the protracted development cycle dual disc brake equipped road tandems came into their own and were providing tandem enthusiasts with inherent, higher-heat capacity braking than the rim-brake equipped models they were now replacing.  Off-road tandems probably did a lot to build confidence in disc brake systems as we’d even had those on our first Ventana tandem back in 2000.  To their credit, Cannondale defied the nay-sayers and were the first to introduce the dual-disc equipped road tandems well-before anyone else.  Co-Motion was next to offer the dual-disc a standard brake offering.  Other custom and small-volume, high-end builders like Calfee and Seven were also offering road tandems with dual discs.

Therefore, given the changes in the market and product offerings, perhaps the number of drum brakes needed to satisfy consumers is actually now quite small… and may be why I’ve had so few inputs based on my recent solicitation… well, OK: one from a private owner.

However, I do have another data point from April that I’ve been sitting on while waiting to see consumer mentions or product reviews of the MDDB that independently corroborated or offered a counterpoint to my other source.  Alas, there have been none of those either.  I even reached out to a friend in the tandem business to see if they had any perspectives — positive or negative — to offer and to date have never heard back.

So, in the interest of transparency and with the usual caveats, i.e., your results may vary, here’s a summary of what has been shared with me by someone who has been in the tandem business for many years, both as a manufacturer and retailer.

  • They’ve installed a few MDDBs but based on customer feedback no longer offer the brake as an option or aftermarket accessory.
  • The consumers who bought the brake were seasoned Arai drum brake users who were looking to the MDDB as a lighter-weight alternative for their European tours where long descents are quite common.
  • The early adopters were only to get about two (2) seasons out of the MDDB and experienced overheating issues, e.g., anodizing discoloration and melt-down of brake pad material.

As for why the MDDB did not work as well for the early adopters in this sample, the default assumption is that the lack of the large heat-sink / fins that were part of the original Aria drum brake reduces the MDDB’s ability to withstand the same amount of heat from demanding descents: Arai at left, MDDB at right.

arai 4513_edited


Similar issues with regard to loss of heat capacity were also reported with Arai drums where the cooling fins / heat sink material had been removed for weight savings in a variety of different postings to the Tandem@Hobbes forums over the years.  At right is a photo of an Arai drum brake with the materials removed installed on a Trek T2000 with what appears to be a trailer hitch on the left end of the rear axle.


However, what Maddock Machine zeroed-in on was a deviation from their very explicit MADDB installation guidelines relative to reaction arm alignment with the frame mounting point, aka, Pacman.



My source volunteered that they did, in fact, use bolts that were ~5mm longer than the ones supplied with the MDDB.  However, it was his assessment that it was the only way to make the MDDB work.  Moreover, it was common practice to use a shorter bolt than was spec’d for the Arai drum brakes and the length of that bolt was not crucial.

Having worked in the aerospace and defense industry supporting the design, development and manufacturing of aircraft and related systems, I can appreciate why design standards and subsequent technical, maintenance & flight manual details are so darn specific as any deviation beyond the cited limits invites all kinds of problems.  So, as a third-party observer of the purported issues and deviations from installation specs provided by Maddock for the MDDB, I’m inclined to side with Maddock since they actually provided a spec.  Looking back at the Arai, I believe most of the “specs” and user manuals were materials that tandem builders like Santana developed for customers or dealers like Mark Johnson at Precision Tandems who maintains a rather comprehensive web-based guide for customers.

However, that said, I’m also a big fan of empirical data and experience, especially when it comes to tandems since so many things that either should or shouldn’t work on a tandem defy logic and engineering intent.  As noted by our source, installation of the Arai on the very non-standardized variety of frames with rear wheel spacing ranging from 130mm to 160mm required some fudging when it came to getting everything aligned, so it would seem logical to assume that a very similar brake would not be adversely affected by similar adaptations of the reaction arm interface with the frame.  Moreover, and being very sensitive to how either disrupting air flow or removing heat reducing features adversely affect the running temperature of our air-cooled motorcycle engines, I can also see how a shaved Arai or a clean-sheet drum brake design that mimics the shaved Arai could reduce the heat capacity of the drum brake and induce brake fade and the associated issues that come with overheating any type of brake.

In conclusion, I’d really like to hear from users who can provide those all-important first-hand reviews and insights into how the brakes were used and any issues that may have occurred.  My source makes a very compelling argument for why they opted to drop the MDDB from their options and accessories based on their early adopter experiences: again, this is not his first rodeo and I sincerely respect his experience, expertise and desire to provide customers with products he can stand behind and support.

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