The Soma Crane Stem Arrived Today

As mentioned in two recent blog entries, as I was putting my ’99 Erickson Signature single road bike back into service I discovered that I’d need to raise the handlebars as my riding position has gotten a bit more relaxed over the past 19 years.  Given the Erickson has a 1″ AME Alpha Q threadless fork that was custom painted to match the frame, doing a fork swap was not feasible. I also looked at stem risers, but they just seemed a bit too klugey once you had the riser + a stem bolted-on.

As I did my research I came across an 80mm tall Soma Crane stem with an 80mm reach & 17° rise.  These are made by Nitto for Soma, but are only offered in a 1.125″ steerer size.  However, I assumed that like most 1.125″ stems, this combination riser/stem would also work just fine with the same type of spacer used to allow the installation of 1.125″ theadless stems on 1″ fork steerers.  So, that was my plan.  My only real moment for pause came on the stem length.  My current stem was an 80mm reach model, but with the stem height being raised a full inch, I wondered if I might not need the extra 20mm of reach.  I opted to go with the 80mm length and will keep my fingers crossed that it will net out to be “close enough” to the 50cm of reach that I have on my other bikes.  Again, the most important change will be raising the handlebars ~40mm to achieve a 35mm bar drop from the top of the saddle, again… on par with my other bikes.

Well, the stem arrived today.  Sadly, it did not come with a stem cap or the M5 x 60mm preload bolt needed that runs through the stem cap to the star nut in the fork.  However, in addition to having the spacers I needed to install the 1.125″ stem on my 1″ steerer tube, I also had several spare aftermarket 1.125″ stem caps and four M5 x 60mm bolts.  The bolts are from two spare OEM Calfee eccentric’s for our Calfee tandem which were replaced by a daVinci eccentric. Having those long M5 bolts saved me from making a trip over to Ace hardware, about the only place I know of that has every bolt available ‘ala carte’ vs. having to buy more than I’d ever need at Threads for the South, an industrial fastener supply house.

The transfer of stems didn’t take long as I already had the left-hand side of the bar tape removed from the Erickson.  However, as part of the stem installation I did end up having to change out both the left-hand brake and shifter housing and cables to allow for a longer cable housing run. For some reason, the right side was just fine: go figure.  Fortunately,  the UPS guy dropped off  two boxes of Shimano bicycle brake and shifter cable housing on Monday, as I had used up pretty much every other spare length of cable housing two weeks ago.  So,  I had 130′ of brake housing and 160′ of shifter cable housing on hand which should last me for several years, perhaps a decade of bicycle maintenance.  On average, a tandem or bicycle use perhaps 5′ to 6′ of each type of housing per replacement so even I can do that math: 20+ rebuilds, or about $7.00 per rebuild, half of what it costs to buy it by the foot or in “kits”.

Anyway, below are the before and after photos.  As for accomplishing what I’d hoped, the bars were indeed raised 40mm and are now 35mm below the top of the saddle, right where I want them.  However, I did lose 20mm in bar reach with the 80mm stem.  As for the overall impression of the stem and installation, I think I like it much more than the alternatives.  The 80mm stem essentially incorporates a 40mm riser but in a seamless looking package, with an integrated neck. The fixing bolt is on the front of the stem, which is a bit unusual.  I’ve only see this on one of the other risers sold under a couple different brand names.  Again, it’s a clean-looking stem and the use of the spacer doesn’t seem to compromise the integrity of the chromoly stem in any way.

 

I’m going to double check my saddle set-back to see if there might be a little room for adjustment there to add-back the 20mm I lost by not using the 100mm length stem, but will otherwise just ride it this way to see how it feels.

Anyhow, here’s how the Erickson looked as originally configured in 1999 (at left) and now with the Soma stem (at right).  And yes, the Erickson is also sporting the new Bontrager Montrose Comp saddle.  Now, if the rain would just stop long enough to allow for a ride!

 

As a final image for comparison, below is an overlay of the before and after photos that shows the increase in bar height achieved by changing the stem.  Note that the shifter position in the after image appears to put the bars a bit further out… that’s just an optical illusion created by the bars being turned slightly to the left in the current photo.  And yes, I’ve adjusted the nose height of the saddle to be up a bit higher, consistent with the tandem and the other single bikes now that the bar height is corrected.

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Good Bikes Are Like Fine Wines…

… they’re all different and delicious in their own ways.

Sadly, I’m not able to offer some new and exciting insights on the ride qualities of a new tandem as we’ve pretty much got all the tandems we need, perhaps even one or two too many.

The Calfee continues to deliver outstanding comfort and handling, even with the short fork rake and long steering trail of the True Temper Alpha Q X2 fork.  I’ve toyed with installing a spare Reynolds Ouzo Pro Tandem fork with more rake to see if we’ve reached the point where extra straight line stability and the ability to handle a 28mm tire might be preferable to the riding-on-rails cornering of the Alpha Q and it’s max tire capacity of 25mm… perhaps next Spring?  We’ll see.

In my last blog entry I mentioned I’d be interesting in finding our 2002 Erickson Custom travel tandem but, alas, not a peep has come forth from that solicitation. And, quite frankly, that’s probably OK too.  Debbie wasn’t all that keen on returning to a steel frame after 10+ years on carbon, remembering that she instantly fell in love with the Calfee back in January 2008. She saw no need to ever ride either of our steel Erickson tandems again… which is why we ended up selling them.

However, the impetus for the subject line on this blog entry was back-to-back rides on the recently resurrected single road bikes where the titanium Dean Castanza (photo at right) suddenly emerged as the bike I enjoyed riding the most on just a regular rolling loop ride.  Yes, that means my all composite Calfee Tetra Pro came in second, with the Dedacciai Zero / Steel Erickson a distant third.

Now, to be fair, and as noted in my previous blog entry on the single road bikes, the Erickson wasn’t fully sorted out when I first rode it and I hadn’t even ridden the Dean when I wrote that blog.

Since then I’ve ordered  a taller stem for the Erickson — an 80mm tall Soma Crane model — that should raise the handlebars a net of 35mm.  That will put it on par with the Dean and the Calfee in terms of riding position.  I’m guessing the reward shift of CG and more upright posture will yield some positive changes in riding efficiency and comfort.  The current, stock riding position with the handlebars 40mm below my saddle height is just too aggressive for my near 60-year old body.

Now, if the weather would just cooperate!  The colder temps have caused the tandem to be sidelined since late October as Debbie is not fond of riding below the 60°F mark and I’ve been rained out of solo bike rides for over a week thus far and.  While it’s nothing compared to the long-term disruptions in life that folks who have been impacted by Hurricane’s Florence & Michael are still enduring — never mind the folks now being impacted by wild fires in California and more recent flooding from just seasonal, non-tropical storms — riding on a near daily basis was a major part of my retirement plan so I’m struggling with that a bit.

Now, in terms of the other tandems I alluded to, I’m still not getting a sense that Debbie’s all that interested in getting back on the off-road tandem for trail riding.  I’ll take a run at it again next year, but I’ve deferred any further work on the Ventana — it’s about due for seal replacements — until we get out for at least 4 rides. Otherwise, I’m just wasting money on servicing a fork the next owner may not care about.  Yes, next owner.  It really makes no sense to hold onto a tandem that’s not going to be ridden, especially one like a full-suspension tandem where things like seals and fluids don’t last forever. 

That leaves the triplet which may also be a bit in doubt.  When we first bought it the idea was we’d have it available for the three or four big rallies we always attend here in the Southeast where one of two or three gal-friends has usually been available to “stoke” the triplet.  But, I sense there may be a shift in guest stoker availability and, unless our granddaughter Caroline decides she’d like to ride with the grandparents, it too will just collect dust.  So, it may be short-lived as well.

Oh, it’s so hard to part with the bicycles!!  Guess that’s why we still have 12-13 of the things here at the house.  Like I said, good bicycles are like fine wines, they warrant collecting so that you can savor their individual and unique characteristics every now and again.

 

 

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Helmet Mirror’s & Moisture Damage

Sadly, I lost the photos of the two mirrors with the moisture damage in evidence and will likely have a hard time properly describing what occurred.  However, I’ll do my best…

It was in early August and the day after Debbie and I had been out for a 35-mile ride on a very hot and humid day that I first noticed the mirror on her Hubbub Cycling mirror didn’t look quite right.  Instead of being fully reflective it had taken on a copper-colored hue around the edges with a large, hazy blob covering the middle of the mirror.  It appeared as though something that had compromised the silver coating on the mirror such that the copper backing was showing through the otherwise clear glass.

When I went to get the mirror off of my own helmet to put on Debbie’s, son-of-a-gun if its perimeter didn’t have the same, sudden loss of silver uniformly around the edge of the mirror.

I ended up applying heat to the mirror / mirror housing to encourage the adhesive holding the mirror in place to release so I could get the mirror out of the housing to examine the backside of the mirror.  Sure enough, on one mirror the glass and silver coating had de-bonded from the copper backing which was still adhered to the grey plastic mirror housing.  On the other, the mirror released with the remaining silver / copper backing attached.

After considering my options, I decided I’d take a shot at fixing the mirrors as we really like their large, well-placed mirror design.  Given that one of the mirrors lost all of its silver-covered copper backing, whereas the other only lost a thin strip of the silver and copper around the perimeter, I ended up using two different repair methods.

  1. Mirror Effect Paint:  On the one mirror that had lost all of it’s copper and silver backing, after doing a little cleaning with a solvent I essentially had a clear piece of glass in my hand instead of a mirror.  I’d seen a can of “Mirror Effect” paint at the home store when I was picking up some touch-up paint for an appliance and figured I’d see how well that would work on something like a functional mirror vs. just a decorative item.  The final result is visible in the mirror to the right in the photo below.  Yes, it did in fact turn the piece of glass back into a mirror; however, the reflected image was not of good optical quality. In fact, it was very hazy with some spotting.  I made several attempts at coating the glass with the paint, cleaning off the prior coat with solvent between each attempt and it always came out the same regardless of technique used, e.g., many light coats vs. thick coats, air dry vs. heated dry, etc.  So, the paint approach was not going to work well on that particular mirror.  However, it worked well-enough that I was able to use it on the other mirror with the loss of silver around the perimeter.  No, the optical quality wasn’t great, but since it was only around the perimeter it was good enough and returned the mirror to service once the glass reinstalled in the plastic mirror frame.  It’s the mirror in the middle of the photo below.
  2. Making a New Mirror:  For the other mirror where the Mirror Effect paint didn’t delivery the desired optical qualities I went to the auto parts store and purchased a small piece of replacement mirror glass.  It wasn’t as thick as I would have liked, but if I could score and snap it with relatively clean breaks I believed I’d be able to get the complex, 7-sided mirror I needed to fit back in the plastic frame.  I had enough mirror material to make 3 attempts and my second attempt proved to be “good enough” to return the mirror to service.  As feared, the small size of the mirror needed in combination with the cheap, thin-glass used for the replacement mirror did not break as cleanly as a thicker, better-quality piece of mirrored glass would have.  It’s the mirror at the left in the photo below.

So, all told, I spent $7.00 for the Mirror Effect paint and $8.00 for the auto replacement mirror and returned both of my 7-year old, $29 Hubbub Mirrors to service.  I was good with that as we’re very happy with the Hubbub mirrors and haven’t found any that we’d be willing to replace them with as most use a much smaller, round or rectangular piece of mirrored glass vs. the large heptagonal Hubbub mirror glass.

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Getting Back into Bicycles: A Busy Week in the Garage

As the temperature dropped into the 30’s and 40’s in the morning, Debbie’s enthusiasm for getting out on the tandem 3 times a week for 35-mile loop rides from the house quickly faded.  She’s more or less uninterested in riding unless the temps are above 60, or in the 50’s with the sun warmth in full effect.

Therefore, this change in my retirement cycling regime required an adjustment on my part.  So, it was on this past Monday afternoon that I took my Dean Scout, hardtail mountain bike over to the local trails for a nice 10-mile ride.  It felt really good to be back on the trails.  Sadly, a significant portion of the local trails (Areas A, E & D on the map at right) will close on 1 November through 31 December for bow hunting season.  Thankfully, they’ve adjusted the trail closings a bit over the past two years such that one set of loops located in the “C” areas bordered by subdivisions are off-limits to hunters and open for cycling, hikers, runners, etc. So, I will definitely be taking advantage of those trails during November and December as time and weather permit.  And, I’ll also be heading out on my single road bike and, when we get those occasional sunny 50°F days you can bet that I’ll be checking to see if Debbie is up for a tandem ride.

Anyway, during my ride on Monday I realized my late 1990’s Dean mountain bike needed some mechanical attention as the rear wheel was a bit out of true and I also realized the tubeless tire never full-seated on the tubeless tire rim, noting that I’m using them with tubes: yes, I’m a cycling troglodyte.  It was also a filthy mess after several rides and in need of a wash.  It didn’t take me too long to attend to those things and it gave me the motivation I needed to clean our tandem, which was still carrying a lot of road grime from our 120 miles of riding in Florida, my Ventana F/S mountain bike and my Calfee road bike… all of which were quite dirty.  I used to be really good about keeping all of my bicycle’s spotless; hmmm.  Maybe I have shifted too far to the other end of periodic maintenance.

After getting the bikes I ride most often cleaned-up I was definitely back in the bicycle mechanic groove.  This was a good thing as I was way behind on a few things, like rebuilding a broken Campy Chorus shifter that came off of Debbie’s Calfee single bike over a year ago.  My quick fix for her bike was to use a spare Campy Record shifter.

Her broken shifter and the replacement parts for it have been sitting on my workbench but without a pressing need to fix the thing I’ve just let it sit.   So, on Tuesday morning the rebuild went really well and the Campy Record shifter went back into the box with the left-hand shifter for future use.  I should switch it back out with the one on her Calfee, but I know she won’t like the very stiff shifter movement that comes right after a rebuild so at some point I’ll get it switched-out.

With that rebuild out of the way I remembered that my Dean single bike sitting on the stationary trainer upstairs in the exercise room adjacent to our master suite also had a Campy shifter with worn springs that needed to be replaced.

So, I brought that bike down to the garage and started working on it Tuesday afternoon.  I was moving right along until I went to re-assemble the shifter and ran into problems with one of the springs.  I’m not sure why the little return spring (item F in the photo above) just didn’t want to compress the way it should have, but after fighting with it for well over an hour — it should have taken 2 minutes — I gave up and ordered a new one.  Good grief, $8.00 for a little spring that probably cost $.05 to make.  Oh well, when you must have it, you must have it.  So, the bike would just sit in the work stand until the parts arrive sometime next week.

I found myself on something of a roll and with the Dean project now stalled I was eager to take on something else bicycle related.  I’d thought about building up a 1998 Bianchi Mega Exo / Team Mercatone Uno Tour de France replica frame that I’ve had hanging in a closet for well over a decade.  But, I really didn’t want to spend a lot of money building up a set of wheels for it as that was the one thing I didn’t have sitting around with the right hubs as I probably would ride it once and then it would sit for another 10 years.  After all, I had the aforementioned Dean road bike sitting upstairs getting very little use and my purple and white 1999 Erickson that still needed some attention. Ah hah, that would be my next project!

The one issue I had with the Erickson was the handlebars. The Erickson was built-up with the Campy Centaur compact triple group from Debbie’s now retired Ritchey Road Logic bike which is now hanging next to the Bianchi in my upstairs office closet.

 

The problem I ran into but never addressed were the 38 cm wide handlebars, which were about 4 cm too narrow for me.  Sadly, I just didn’t have any spare 42 cm wide drop bars sitting around and it didn’t seem worth pursuing as I was still working and not riding single bikes all that much. However, now that I find I’ll be riding alone during the winter months I had the motivation I needed so on Tuesday night I ordered an attractively-priced set of Deda Elementi / Tre Speciale bars for it. My plan is to use the Erickson with the 50/40/30 triple crankset and 13x29t cassette for climbing Kennesaw Mountain at least once a week over the winter.  I’ve done it on my Calfee, but the 12% grades were a grind with the 50/36 compact drive and 13x26t cassette on the Calfee.

On Wednesday — and while waiting for the parts I needed to finish the Dean and Erickson — I began working my way through the two cabinets in the garage that hold most of my cycling parts and tools.  I’d organized everything back in April 2009, but there was a lot “stuff” in those cabinets that was just too old and/or worn to be of use to me that either needed to go up on ebay or out with the recycling/trash.  Amazingly, it took me the better part of Wednesday intermixed with some other errands to go through about half of the “stuff” in just one of the cabinets. On Thursday morning I resumed sorting through all of my cycling parts, tools, etc.

I found it interesting as I went through the cabinets how many times I’d look at something and ask myself, “Do I really need to keep this?”  I’d put it in the discard container, then pull it back out of the discard container and either set it aside as a potential keeper, move it to a growing stack of potential ebay items, or finally just put it back in the discard container.  I truly am a pack rat when it comes to certain things, but ultimately a LOT of stuff went in the discard container, e.g., 20-year old two-way radios that still worked but where the rubber and plastic parts were crumbling, worn-out chain rings, cheap bottom brackets that had long-ago been replaced by good ones, partially worn shifter cables that I held onto for possible reuse, etc.  In the ebay stack were older components that I have no use for, but by-golly I’ll bet there’s someone out there looking for that exact part!  Well, maybe…  I’ll list them once for nominal listing fee and ask for $5.00 shipping and handling and if someone wants to pay $5 for something, I’ll break even and feel better for not sending a potentially classic cycling component to the smelter.

Thursday’s mail arrived around 10:00am and in it were the parts I needed to finish rebuilding the shifter on the Dean road bike. After making sufficient progress on my cycling cabinet project I was able to spend a few minutes later in the afternoon re-assembling the shifter with a new spring carrier, indexing springs and the return spring.  Now, all I needed was for the rain to stop so I could go and ride.

When I woke up on Friday I’d expected the rain to be gone so I could get out and ride the Dean; however, the soggy weather stayed with us well past noon.  After doing some other things on my to-do list in the morning I headed back out to the garage to sort through a couple more drawers in the second cabinet then turned my attention back to the Dean sitting up against my cycling work bench.

Having now mentally cataloged all of the extra bicycle parts I had on hand I decided to change-out the all-alloy Campy Chorus crankset for a Campy Chorus carbon crankset that was sitting unused as they’d just look better on the bike with their dark grey/black carbon crank arms. Both sets used conventional 53/39 gearing so no change there.  It will be interesting to ride this bike with its conventional crank gearing and the 12×25 cassette vs. the Calfee with its 50/36 and 13×26 cassette.  As it sits it weighs 19.3 lbs with its somewhat heavy Mavic Cosmic wheelset, 1.3 lbs heavier than the 18.0 lb Calfee Tetra Pro.

 

Of course, one thing leads to another and as I worked on the bike I realized I really needed to change out the rear derailleur’s shifter housing and cable to eliminate some binding.  So, as usual, a 15-minute task — changing the cranks — turned into an hour-long project.  In fact, it was just long enough for Friday’s mail to arrive which included the new set of handlebars Erickson which I honestly didn’t expect to see until next week.

Like the Dean project, the Erickson handlebar replacement turned into a cable and housing update, remembering the Erickson was built-up from components I removed from Debbie’s Ritchey Road Logic after I upgraded her to a Calfee Luna several years back.  I was able to get the Erickson all sorted-out and everything works.

 However, I discovered I need to figure out how to raise the handlebars without replacing the fork and it really needs a new saddle: the one on it is worn-out and falling apart after 20 years and a few thousand miles of riding between 1999 and 2005.  So, a new saddle is coming along with an 80mm tall Soma Crane stem with an 80mm reach & 17° rise that ‘should’ yield the 30mm to 40mm higher handlebar position I need for my more mature riding posture.  With that improved riding position and the 50/40/30 cranks with a 13x29t rear cassette I should be all set for Kennesaw Mountain.  At 20.6 lbs as it sits, it’s the heaviest of the three solo road bikes, a full 2.6 lbs heavier than the Calfee at 18.0 lbs.

I rode the Erickson on our short loop from the house on Saturday and the Calfee on the same loop Sunday just to so some back-to-back comparison riding.  The Erickson definitely gets top marks for handling, but the Calfee still takes top honors for comfort, acceleration and planing. Its truly a sublime ride.  Now, to be fair, my riding position on the Erickson was far too aggressive for an apples-to-apples comparison.  Years ago, both the Calfee and the Dean were set up with the handlebars a good 3.0cm lower than they are today. Gotta love that about threaded steerers and quill stems: lots of adjustability without using spacers, different stems, etc.

I hope to get out on the Dean Monday if the weather will permit.  After that I’ll be consumed by a small repair project in the garage after discovering a small termite problem earlier this week.  All I’ll say is, it could have been worse. Ugg.  We have our pest control guy coming out tomorrow to do a refresh on the Sentricon system around our house. Somehow we decided not to have it updated back in 2014 and now I’m regretting that. Hopefully he won’t find any other evidence of infestations. But I digress….

As to why I have all three of these bikes?  The year 2005 is when the Erickson was replaced as my every-day bicycle by the 1998 Dean, which was in turn replaced by the 1997 Calfee in 2007.  In the past I’d sell off my old bikes when I bought a new one and I’ve lived to regret.  I had several Raleigh’s from the early 80’s that were really quite nice: a Grand Prix, a Prestige and a Custom.  I also sent a really nice early 90’s Trek 2300 off to a new home. And then there are the tandems; the ’98 Cannondale MT3000 and both Erickson tandems.  In fact,I know where the 1998 Erickson is and I’m good with that one having stayed “in the family” so to speak.  However, I’d love to find our 2002 Erickson travel tandem and, if it’s not being used, buy it back so we’d have a “spare” tandem and, well, because it was really a very nice riding tandem, perhaps even a bit better handling than the 1998 model.

So, if anyone has seen this white to carbon grey fade 2002 Erickson Custom travel tandem that we sold to a couple from Kentucky back in the fall of 2007, please let us know!!

 

 

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Southern Tandem Rally – Hosts Still Needed for 2019

The following is a note from Jack Goertz, Co-Founder of the Southern Tandem Rally


Calling All Tandem Teams!

This year, STR celebrated its 40th year of tandem rallies hosted across the Southeastern United States.   Forty years is quite an accomplishment for our small tandem community.  It’s longevity is a direct result of the many volunteers who have worked to bring this rally to their neighborhoods.  I want to thank you if you have organized or assisted in organizing one (or more) STR rallies over the past forty years!

Why am I writing this?  As of November 1, 2018,  the 2019 Southern Tandem Rally has no hosts! Without a host team, there will not be a 41st Annual Rally!

If you’ve ever thought that perhaps some day you might consider hosting, today is the day!  Talk to your Captain/Stoker!  Talk to your friends!  Reach out to Steve and Debi Katzman, our hosts from this year.   Ask Steve and Debi how much fun they had hosting and what’s involved.  (You can reach them at skatzman@live.com.)

Susan and I are also available to help!   Contact us so we can answer your questions about what it takes to host a rally.  We have coordinated these events since the late 1970’s and we are happy to help you with “your” Southern Tandem Rally. We can help with budgeting, planning, answering your questions, etc.  Southern Tandem Rally has seed money, so you should have no out-of-pocket costs while you’re waiting for registrations to roll in!

Finally, don’t think you are limited to volunteering to host 2019! We’re also looking for hosts for 2020 and beyond!

Don’t wait expecting someone else to volunteer.  If you have questions or think you might be interested, please contact me today at goertz@mindspring.com.

2019 will be here before you know it!

Thank you!

Jack Goertz
Co-Founder of the Southern Tandem Rally
goertz@mindspring.com

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Calfee Update #5: Clicking Solved

After chasing a “clicking sound” all over the tandem and stumbling over an issue with the couplers that the good folks at Calfee quickly resolved for us, I finally found the source:

Yup, it was the lowly lockring on the 11x32t cassette that was ultimately the source of the “clicking” sound.  The lockring had developed what appeared to be a hairline crack and was no longer holding torque on the cassette.  The less-than-spec torque on the lockring allowed the cassette cogs to separate enough on each of the power-strokes to make an audible sound.  On hard, out-of-the-saddle climbs that cogs moved around enough to create chain chatter much the same as you’d get if you had a lot of frame flex.

So, I’m quite relieved that we have solved these latest issues.  Of course, tandems being tandems, as soon as the clicking was gone a new rubbing sound appeared on the left side of the bike.  And, if that weren’t bad enough, a saddle rail failed on my 10-year old Selle Italia TransAm Flight saddle 6-miles from the end of our Saturday ride at the 2018 Southern Tandem Rally.  This is the 3rd, identical saddle to suffer this life-ending fate during the past few years.

Thankfully, a local bike shop in Venice (Bicycle International) had several performance saddles in stock and I took a leap of faith that the Bontrager Montrose Comp saddle was “close enough” in design and stiffness to make for a painless transition on Sunday’s ride: it was!

In fact, I’m not sure I could tell the difference so I’ve now got a new ‘go-to’ saddle if I need one.

Bottom Line:  We’re still in love with our Calfee Tetra Custom Travel Tandem.  It continues to deliver an incredibly comfortable ride and has more than enough “gusto” to efficiently transfer all the power we can generate to the tires and pavement.  If we had to replace our Calfee there’s no doubt that another Calfee would be at the top of our list.

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Southern Tandem Rally 2018: Venice, Florida

LEADING UP TO THE RALLY

Unlike previous Southern Tandem Rallies (STR), this year Debbie and I would be on the tandem instead of the triplet with our friend Lisa.  Given STR was being held in Venice, Florida, making it the furthest we’ve ever travelled for a Southern Tandem Rally, not having Lisa along was both a good thing and a bad thing.  It was a good thing because the logistics would have been a bit complicated, but it was a bad thing because we do enjoy riding with Lisa and the dead-flat roads around Venice, Florida, would have been a place where the triplet would have ‘owned the road’ unconstrained by elevation changes.

However, even with the somewhat simplified logistics, we had a lot on our plate we needed to attend to before we headed off on Thursday for the 550-mile drive:

  • At the top of the list were some pressing family matters that were weighing heavily on Debbie’s mind and that could require us to either cancel or cut our trip to Venice, Florida, short.
  • We had a massive hurricane heading into the Gulf that was expected to wreak havoc along the Gulf Coast and then move through other parts of Florida and Georgia which could also cause a change in plans.
  • Our “tandem hauler” was having more suspension issues and needed to go into the shop for repairs before the trip and, fingers crossed, those repairs and the replacement of a sensor that I had on order would enable us to have a reliable vehicle for the trip.
  • Our tandem still had an unresolved issue that was either something serious or simply an annoying nit.
  • And there were half a dozen other balls in the air as well.

It suffices to say, we had a very busy few days ahead of us before making the long drive.  I can’t imagine what it would have been like if I was still working!  Anyway, by the end of day Wednesday, we were still planning on making the drive down to Venice, Florida for the Southern Tandem Rally; this assumed: (1) Debbie’s family had a some issues under control and there wasn’t anything else Debbie could do to help, (2) Interstate I-75 through Georgia was still open following Hurricane Michael’s passing, and (3) Venice, Florida remained unaffected by the hurricane.


THURSDAY

I had a sleepless night, as I always do before any trip: why is that?  I finally gave up attempting to sleep around 5:00am and came down to work on my weekly journal and access at the damage from Hurricane Michael as well as the plunge in markets on Wednesday.

After confirming there weren’t any major obstacles to making our trip, we began our 550-mile / 8-hour drive down to Venice, Florida around 11:00am and it was an uneventful drive, for the most part.

We made a short stop for lunch at a Subway in Unadilla, Georgia, where there was some visible wind damage, mostly to signage. We saw a lot of wind damage around Cordelle, Georgia, and multiple caravans of utility and Emergency Response Team vehicles headed north on I-75.  The electronic message boards warned of I-10 begin closed West of Tallahassee, Florida, but the rest of the drive didn’t suggest there had been devastating damage just 150 to 200 miles away.

We arrived at Hotel Venezia around 7:00pm, checked-in and then visited a bit with other guests at the hotel bar where a social hour was in full swing. We didn’t stay too long noting it had been a tough day for Debbie as she was monitoring the situation with her family back home and it was not good news; a family member passed later that night.

Sadly, on a night when we were both in need of some rest, our room was next door to a couple from a wedding party who came “home” at 11:30pm pretty much drunk out of their minds. The room walls were paper-thin and allowed just about every noise above a whisper to pass into our room. We called the front desk and alerted them to the problem and even the hotel staff was unable to get them to quiet down. The loud voices and outbursts went on until 1:00am, and began again around 3:00am.  It was not the restful sleep we both needed.


FRIDAY

Following our fitful night, we go ourselves up around 7:20am which didn’t give us a lot of time to get breakfast and be ready to ride by the 8:15am rider’s meeting. However, we did our best and made it to the ride start on time.  However, before heading out we let the hotel staff know we’d need to change rooms if the same couple would be spending the night in the room next to us on Friday. They said no problem; we’d sort it out after we returned from our ride.

We headed out on the 50-mile route well-back in the pack and quickly found ourselves with three strong teams: Paul M. & Jennifer K. from New York, Peter & Karin D. from New Jersey and Michael & Nancy G. from Florida.  However, as we headed north on a 6-mile multi-use path cruising along at 22 mph we realized we’d eventually have to fall off the pace of the three couples we were riding with who were clearly stronger cyclists than we are. Moreover, we knew we had friends not too far behind so we fell off from the faster group and eventually fell-in with our friends to finish up the 50-mile route.  Our group of seven included long-time friends & GTR co-directors Roger S. & Eve K from Georgia, Reg & Michelle U from Florida, Earle & Laura R. from Florida, Walt & Kathy C. from Texas, Jeff & Judy C. from Illinois and Thompson & Susan M. from Florida (photo below by Steve K., using Eve K’s camera).

It was a good day on the bike for us, but we do struggle with the dead flat riding vs. our rolling hills back at home: somehow, we find the rolling terrain to be more enjoyable and less fatiguing.

Back at the hotel we checked in with the staff who began working on the room swap while we grabbed showers and then headed to the hotel bar for lunch.  The prime rib wrap and Caesar salad was perfect!  If only we had a view of the Gulf!  Perhaps we’ll be able to swing that for dinner.

After lunch we were given our new room keys and moved our belongings to the much more remote room with just one common wall to another room: it immediately felt more relaxing as soon as we entered the room.  Debbie stayed behind to relax while I headed out to the pool to get some sun and work on the journals.

Around 4:30pm we headed off to find Fins at Sharky’s a restaurant and bar adjacent to the South Venice Pier and on the Gulf so we could get in some coastline therapy.  Fins was perfect!  We didn’t get to sit at the bar, but our server at the 2nd floor outdoor lounge was awesome and right on top of things.  We enjoyed our cocktails with a wonderful view of the Gulf and ended up having a very light but elegant dinner from their appetizer menu: Oysters Rockefeller and a small serving of hand cut Waygu beef seared at our table on a Hot Stone.

 

It was a much-needed, very relaxing and luxurious afternoon topped-off with a lovely sunset.  And, well, the market came back a bit, so that was good news too!

We headed back to the hotel after our sunset and joined the rest of the rally goers for the ice cream social before heading on to bed. Thankfully it was a quiet night for us. Even still, we both didn’t sleep as well as we’d hoped.


SATURDAY

We got ourselves up a little after 7:00am and headed down to breakfast, noting we’d need to leave the hotel around 8:15am for the short drive to today’s ride start… at Sharky’s.

I did a little investigating on the tandem before the ride and finally found what I believe was the source of the creaking: the lockring on the cassette. It appeared to be a hairline crack so I swapped it out with another lockring from a spare cassette and sure enough, the creaking noise was gone on Saturday’s ride!

We started out the ride (photo at left by Eve K) thinking we’d be doing the 60-mile route, but about mid-ride decided to join the other 6 or 7 teams in our group from Friday and do the 42-mile route instead: it was the right call for several reasons.

We really enjoyed being out with several other teams for the past two day’s rides, as opposed to getting out too fast too early and finding ourselves riding alone at large rallies.  It would have been the perfect rally for the triplet, had our friend Lisa been able to attend. Alas, that was not the case.  But, still… it has been a really nice event.  And Saturday’s ride through the Canopy Drive and along the coast was delightful, the sag stop was at just the right place and the lunch back at Sharky’s may have been one of the top-five we’ve ever had at a rally: it was very simple with burgers, pulled-pork, salads and soft drinks.

As mentioned, the 42-mile ride was the right call as we weren’t so worn out by the dead-flat riding and hot sun and, well, one of the two rails on my saddle failed just after we took the turn at the 42/62-mile route splitting point.  After a quick check I decided I could ride the final 7 miles with the broken saddle by sitting on the nose. But, I’d have to stop at a local bike shop and buy a new saddle for Sunday’s ride, that was for sure.

We spent the afternoon relaxing at the hotel bar after making a stop at the local bike shop so I could pick up a new saddle to replace the one that broke on the ride.  After getting cleaned up and replacing the broken saddle we parked ourselves at the hotel bar to relax and watch college football until it was time to get ready for the Saturday night banquet.  We ended up sharing a table with Art & Deborah T., from Wisconsin whom we’d met at the hotel bar on Friday night and Venice Florida locals Randy & Nancy Hurley.  Sadly, I’m drawing a blank on the other couple whom we met at our table, but we had a great time and hopefully I didn’t run my mouth too much as I seemed to be in a very chatty mood.


SUNDAY

Given that Debbie really needed to get home as early as possible on Sunday as she needed to check in with family on the final arrangements for her family member’s viewing on Monday and funeral on Tuesday.  With that in mind, we opted to ride the short, 21-mile route vs. the 31-mile route that most of our friends would be riding.

We had a great start to the ride, spending the majority of our time riding and chatting with long-time friends Greg & Angela K. from Florida.  In fact, we were so engrossed in our discussions that the the turn-off point for the 31-mile riders caught us by surprise.  Sadly, we never really finished our conversation, so we’ll have to catch up with them somewhere else in the not too distant future to do that.

Anyway, now that we were clearly on the 21-mile route we sprinted ahead to make quick work of the ride and found ourselves riding with Paul, Jennifer, Peter & Karin again, just as we had on Friday.  We stayed with them for several miles but Debbie finally said “enough, it’s time to back off” and we parted company about 1/3 of the way through the ride.  We finished up the ride by ourselves and were back at the hotel just before 10:00am.  We had ourselves cleaned-up, packed and on the road by 10:30am for the 8-hour return drive to Atlanta.

The drive home was almost uneventful, if you can ever call driving along side Floridian’s uneventful: I swear, they’re some of the worst interstate drivers we’ve ever encountered. Regardless, we lost a good 30 minutes sitting in a traffic jam about 3-miles south of the I-75 / Florida tollway interchange were apparently a couple of drivers got together.  However, once clear of that it was relatively smooth sailing. We did our best to stay connected to the NFL games via local radio stations and finally arrived back in our neck of the woods around 6:40pm, stopping at Loco Willy’s to have some dinner before heading home.

It was a good trip, and in some respects, a much-needed distraction for Debbie. We’ll have a couple very busy and emotionally draining days at home with Debbie’s family member’s viewing on Monday and funeral on Tuesday before meeting with our financial advisors on Wednesday and then heading to Daytona Beach, Florida early on Thursday morning on our Harley for the fall motorcycle rally through Sunday.

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