Bringing the Bianchi Mega Pro-L Back to Life

Having achieved success with the Dean’s fork-ectomy, the sticker-job on the two Calfee single bikes and scoring a win with the new Campy Eurus wheelset, I was still feeling like I needed another bike project.

What Harm Can Come From Spare Parts?

While searching in vane for a spare 1″ threaded headset for the Dean back on 14 August before breaking down and ordering a new one, it dawned on me I still had an awful lot of spare bicycle parts packed away in nicely organized containers and storage cabinets.  I’d done a purge a while back, discarded the “junk parts” and held on to others that I might someday need or could sell on ebay.  Of course, with the acquisition of the Campy Eurus G3 wheels, I now had the “extra” Campy Chorus/Mavic CXP33 wheelset I still needed to find a place to store.  It was at that point I realized I had nearly enough compatible parts to build up an entire bicycle.  All I needed was a bare frame and fork.  Well, I actually had two.

The Proper Number of Bicycles is Always (N)+1, Where (N) = the  Current Number of Bicycles You Own

Stored away in an upstairs closet was Debbie’s now retired Ritchey Logic Pro that gave up it’s parts for the Erickson back in 2016, but there’s no point in building it as Debbie’s not about to ride anything other than her Calfee. However, hanging next to it was a 1998 Bianchi MegaPro-L, 7000 series aluminum Mercatone / Uno Tour de France team bike frame I acquired back in November of 2003.

The Bianchi had been built up briefly in 2007 for a back-to-back test ride comparison of the Calfee (carbon), the Erickson (SL steel) and the Dean (Ti) so aluminum could be represented.  After confirming the Calfee was the real deal — clearing the way for a custom-designed Calfee tandem — the Bianchi was stripped of parts and went back into storage along side the Erickson which had been replaced by the Calfee Tetra Pro as my daily ride.  Debbie was still riding her Ritchey Logic Pro at this point, not having experienced what it felt like to ride a Calfee; that would come six months later.

A few years later I made a weak effort to sell off the Bianchi frame, as well as the Ritchey and Erickson, but there just wasn’t a market for them, at least one that reflected the value I saw in those somewhat rare, handmade custom frames.  Yes, even the Bianchi was one of a very low number of hand made frames that came out of Bianchi’s Reparto Corse shops in Italy.

However, I was able to reduce the bicycle fleet by selling off our 1998 Erickson Signature tandem to friends in Florida who wanted to have a second tandem at a second home while they were in an 18-month transition to retirement.  It has since been re-sold by them to other friends from Georgia who spend several months a year at a parent’s home in California, and that’s where it is now.  I miss looking at it, but we simply never had a reason to ride it given how much we enjoyed riding the Calfee.  But, I digress… back to the Bianchi

The Bianchi Takes Shape 

I delayed the start of the Bianchi project until I’d gotten the Calfee’s re-done and finished the fork replacement on the Dean, as I really didn’t have a place to put the additional frame / bike as of yet.

It was on 8 Sep, the day after my shake-down ride on the Dean, that I brought the Bianchi frame down from my office closet and began fitting parts to it.  It didn’t take long before I had a nearly complete bicycle in the work stand.

I poached a pair of old gum wall Vredestein tires off my Bianchi Pista as that’s what the silver Mavic rims were calling for.  All I was lacking was a complete headset. I had the upper and lower bearing cups, a fork base plate and a stem cap, but the bearing cap had gone missing, which is really odd.  Were it not for that, I could  have finished the build-up and taken it for a ride that afternoon.

Of course, me being me, and seeing how nice that frame looked fitted with components, my shopping list got a little bit longer as there was, in fact, a very specific color-matched ITM stem that was produced for this bike and the handlebars I hand on hand were just too narrow at 39cm; I needed a black short reach, 26.0 x 42cm wide bar.  And, of course, I want to use the correct Celeste Green colored handlebar tape instead of black tape which I always have on hand.  So, within a week I should have the silver headset, some properly sized handlebars and the bar tape. The long pole will be the arrival of the 25.6 / 120 / 8* headset from Denmark.  Until then, the Bianchi will be hanging in a new location, along side the Pista… having re-arranged a few things to free up those storage hooks.

Well, That’s Odd???

With the weather and pollen not cooperating, I found myself fiddling with the Bianchi again on following day.  More to the point, I decided to go ahead and run the derailleur and brake cable housing and cables so I could make sure there weren’t any other surprises awaiting me, such as clearance issues, balky derailleurs, shifters, etc.    As I was running the cables through the “Record” shifters — remembering these were spares that had come off the Calfee tandem back in October 2015 when I refitted it with Ultegra 6500 components — I noticed the right hand shifter/brake body was clearly a Chorus grade model, but with a Record branded lever.

It finally dawned on me, back in October 2018 Debbie’s Calfee’s right hand/rear Chorus derailleur shifter/brake lever got bound-up and needed a rebuild. Since I didn’t have a rebuild kit on hand and she was actively riding, I pulled the now spare Record shifter/brake that was in good shape out, swapped the brake levers so the “logos” would match and life was good.  The plan was to do the rebuild on the Chorus body — which I did — and then swap them back-out.  Well, I did the rebuild, but never did the swap-out.

Thankfully, Campagnolo’s shifters are very easy to pull apart and service, which is why I was able to swap out the shifter/brake bodies and exchange the “branded” lever arms so her bike would look normal, even though it was sporting a high-end “Record” level shift/brake body with all of the cool titanium parts. So, today it was just a matter of pulling the shifter off her Calfee and the one off the Bianchi, swapping the levers back, and then reinstalling them. Yes, I relish this stuff.

So, here’s the Bianchi sporting the matched pair of Record shift/brake levers on the temporary ‘front end’ set-up. In a week the headset, stem and handlebars I’ve used so I could sort out the shifting alignment will get swapped out with some new-old-stock (NOS) parts from the 1990’s which will keep the bike closer to the way it would have looked back in the 1998 Tour de France era as an authentic team bike replica.

The “Other Parts” Begin To Trickle In

The Origin-8 el-integrated, sealed-bearing headset arrived on 12 Sep.  In my search for headsets, 1″ threadless silver headsets were far and few between, unless you were willing to shell $150 to $200 for a new Chris King or NOS Campy model.  And, while that was tempting, until such time as I ‘really’ believe I’ll ride this bike more or less than the Calfee or Dean, the value-priced Origin 8 will be more than adequate and looks just fine now that it’s installed.

The new-old-stock, short-drop Cinelli Diet Eubios handlebars arrived on Monday, 14 Sep along with a set of carbon headset spacers that should look about right given I’ve fitted the bike with an Easton EC90 carbon seatpost and the black handlebars are fitted with the black and carbon Campy Record shifters.  Yes, the bar has a clamp diameter that’s a bit larger than the stem’s, so it’s going to be interesting to see if the stem has enough “give” to work. I did a test fit of another 25.6 stem on the bars and while it was a snug fit that needed the help of a wedge to open up the bar clamp enough to slide over the center, clamping section of the bars, it did fit. Of course, that was a steel stem and the ITM is aluminum, so we’ll see. If need be, I’ll just find either a 26.0 or 25.6 set of bars.

Still no sign of the ITM stem having been shipped, but the Cinelli Celeste Green bar tape finally was posted and should be here later this week.  Anticipation… don’t you know.

However, all of that said, with the headset installed and the new spacers on hand, I was able to take the Bianchi out for a short ride around the house yesterday, albeit with naked bars and exposed cable housing held against the bars by electrician’s tape.  The conventional wheelset on the bike gave it a very plush-feeling ride, far more so than I recalled from 2007 when it rolled on the original set of Campy Eurus G3’s, which are not exactly plush-riding wheels.

To Be Continued…

The gentleman from whom I bought the ITM Stem in Denmark via ebay back on 8 September apparently “forgot” to send it.  I’m not sure how that’s possible, given how many reminders ebay sends to sellers once a sale is completed, e.g., send an invoice, generate a mailing label, update your listing to reflect mailed, etc.  Regardless, this will easily push back completion of the bike by at least another week as I’m guessing even though I paid an obscene amount for shipping, it will come by the least expensive and slowest means possible.  95 times out a 100, ebay is awesome.  It’s that 5% that grates on your nerves.

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The Dean Castanza Gets A New Fork / Loses The Wobbles


Back in June of last year I wrote something entitled “Wobbly Wheels on the Dean Castanza” when I was about 1/2 way through trying to resolve a stability problem that had slowly been emerging as I began to ride my 1998 titanium-framed Dean on a more regular basis back in 2018.  It was no longer tracking well “just riding along” and when pressed hard into corners or on fast downhills it was, well… unnerving to the point where I pretty much parked the bike in December 2018.

It was in June when I decided it was time to address the issue and there were two places I’d looked for the root cause: it was either the equally old Mavic Cosmic Elite wheelset or the original 1″ threaded Profile BRC fork that came on the bike, which used very thin but deep aero-optimized composite fork legs bonded to an aluminum crown.

When I wrote the piece I had achieved some level of success by switching out the front wheel to a conventional 32h component wheelset with a Campy Record hub laced to Mavic Open Pro rim. The bike felt “better” on a short ride and my plan was to switch out the rear wheel and then try it again.  But, I never did the follow-up because I jumped to the conclusion it was once again a shortcoming of “go fast wheels” that was the root of all evil, something I’d come to believe after less than positive experiences with Rolf, Topolino and other “go fast wheels” on our tandems back in the 2008-2010 time frame that has kept our tandem & triplet rolling on conventional component wheels ever since, with no regrets nor any wheel issues.

MAINTAINING OBJECTIVITY: Being Undermined By Prejudice

Well, I should have (and have since, as of today) amended my original 28 June article after I rode the Dean with both Mavic Cosmic Elite’s swapped out for the conventionally-spoked Campy Record/Mavic Open Pro wheelset: the Dean was as wobbly as it was with the Cosmic Elite’s, which meant it was NOT the wheelset.

No, my preconceived notion and prejudices about “go fast wheels” had likely given me something of a placebo effect on that first ride, which didn’t include the aforementioned unnerving fast downhill which my follow-up ride did.  That meant it was most likely the Profile BRC fork and, sure enough, when I finally took the time to look more closely at the fork there were rub marks from the spokes on the insides of the fork legs: narrow + flex, don’t you know.  After doing some additional homework I found I was not alone with my Profile BRC fork issue as heavier and stronger riders had all kinds of handling issues with the thin bladed fork and their lack of lateral stiffness.  Moreover, for other riders, they too found that over time as miles and years were put on these forks they also seemed to lose their lateral stiffness.  In fact, it was interesting to find the very same 1″ Profile BRC fork I had was only sold in the U.S. and not exported to Europe, and I have no idea why.


As you can see from my other recent updates, I sort of got on a “refresh the bike” kick, first with the Calfee tandem refresh, then with wheels for my Calfee single followed by the cosmetic refresh of both our Calfee single bikes.  Being on a roll, I cast my eyes upon the Dean and decided it was just too nice a bike to not ride so I went on a search for a used 1″ threaded carbon fork to replace the Profile BRC fork.

What I found and purchased on 11 Aug was a used Kinesis EMS Pro carbon fork. I knew enough about the Kinesis forks to have confidence it was a very robust carbon fork with a steel crown core and head tube that always received good reviews. However, buying this one was a bit of a crap-shoot as the seller really didn’t have all of the specs for the fork, nor did he seem all that inspired to unpack it and check.  I’m guessing he’s either running or working at a ‘bicycle business’ that buys large lots of used bicycle parts from other people who buy used bicycles and strip them for parts… sort of a cycling version of the auto dismantler business model.  Anyway, the steerer looked to be 1″ with 1-24 threads and more than long enough to work on my 54cm dean so I rolled-the-dice and bought it.

The fork arrived on 14 Aug and it was in very good condition given it’s age and looked like it would fit, but might need to have another 1/2 of threads cut into the steerer which was much longer than the Profile BRC’s.  But, only one way to find out: it was time to remove the Profile fork from the Dean… and that’s when the fun began.

IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN EASY: Is it ever easy?

  • The day the fork arrived I’d hoped it would be a quick swap-out of the old Profile BRC fork for the Kinesis wasn’t happening: the Chris King ‘Gripnut’ lockring, collet and adjusting ring were seemingly fused together as a solid unit and would not separate.  Well, that was inconvenient.
    • While I was fully expecting to re-use the chi-chi Chris King headset, that was not to be since I had to use a cutting wheel to split the locknut and collet to get it off the old fork steerer.  Time to go and order a new headset…  which I obtained from Velo Orange.  The Grand Cru looked to be “good enough” for the light-duty I’d put the bike through with my massive 140lb weight and fitness rides.
  • The headset arrived on 20 Aug and it was actually a very nice piece. The bearings are not as “beefy” as the ones on the Chris King headset, but what they lacked in size, the made up for in number.  It sat on the work bench 27 Aug while I took care of a few other bike and non-bike related projects and as Debbie with my support worked through what ultimately ended up being passing of an immediate family member.  It was during some down time when I needed a distraction and it didn’t take much time to get the headset installed since I’ve got all of the right tools.
  • Later on the 27th, After getting the headset installed, my next hurdle became the length of the threading on the steerer tube.  As expected, after getting the headset installed I did a dry-fit of the fork and the threaded headset cap was about 3/8″ of from being seated when it ran out of threads.  And, one of the tools I didn’t have was the coveted and nowadays rarely used Park Tool FTS-1 headtube cutting handle and #606 1-24 die.
  •  The work-around should have been simple: take the fork to the local bike shop that has the FTS-1 and #606 cutter have them chase the current threads and cut-in the extra 1/2″ of threads.  Well, bike shop mechanics apparently aren’t what they used to be.  After spending 30 minutes working on the fork — and I wasn’t encouraged by the “arm strong methods being used on what is a finesse process — all they really achieved was putting some deep scratches in the fork instead of useful threads. I proved this to myself and the shop techs when I attempted to thread the headset top cap on and it stalled-out at the point where the “new threads” had be scratched into the post.
    • My guess is the shop’s die has been used by people who don’t know how to cut threads with a die, to include the folks at the local bike shop, who had damaged it. That, plus not knowing to use cutting oil and 1/2 turn cuts, then backing off to “cut the tails” of cut metal didn’t help matters. 
    • I  followed up with the owner on 28 Aug, who I know, and on 31 Aug he let me know he’d make me whole on my out of pocket cost for the labor. He also acknowledged that as the technology has changed, most shop mechanics have never needed to learn how to do things like thread cutting or facing bottom brackets, etc., and he’s not sure why they tried on their own instead of calling him or one of the other shop principles who do have the skills and experience.
  • As to what I ended up doing to get over the thread cutting hurdle, On 2 Sep I ended up buying a 1-24 tpi industrial thread cutting die for $29 + tax and shipping that arrived on 4 Sep. After finding on the porch Friday night I headed into the garage, put the fork in my Park work stand and — with cutting oil, the die and a very large wrench in hand — made short work of chasing the original threads and had no problem cutting in that extra half inch of threads into the steel steerer. Contrast that with what the fork looked like after the local shop used a worn-out die and no oil and the difference is dramatic. Needless to say, I was very happy.
  • The following day, 5 Sep, I headed back out to the garage to finish my fork installation.  Again, having the right tools makes these types of projects quick and easy.  I’d already pressed the new headset cups into the frame, so all that was left to do was to do a dry installation of the fork to determine where it needed to be cut to fit the frame, be cut using my fork steerer cutting vice, then final installation of the headset and installation of the handebars.  It probably took all of 30 minutes, even with me taking my time. A short spin down to culdesac confirmed a solid installation and also hinted that the handling issues were solved.


On Monday, 7 Sep, after doing some tire swapping — as the Schwalbe tires on the Dean were now 7 years old and having been allowed to sit deflated for the past 8 months in the non-climate controlled garage and looking very cracked and dried-out once they were inflated — I headed off for a shake down ride on the Dean.

It wasn’t a long ride, but the fork replacement definitely made the Dean far more stable than it had been with the Profile fork I’d had on the bike since acquiring it back in 2001.  A longer, subsequent ride today, 12 Sep, that included several hard corners and fast downhills confirmed I finally had the Dean handling the way anyone would expect any properly equipped and sorted-out racing bike to perform: with unnerving you!  No, it was a joy to ride again, especially since it’s still the only thing I’ve changed is the fork and head set.  A cheap fix for a priceless classic… at least in my mind since a comparable replacement would cost at least $7,000 in today’s market.

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The Calfee Singles Get A Cosmetic Make-Over

As mentioned in my prior posting on the wheel upgrade for my 23-year old Calfee, the catalyst for that change was the cosmetic make-over of our 2007 Calfee tandem this past February, when it received a set of new-to-us FSA carbon cranks that, in turn, became the motivation to do a minor “re-nude” and change out the decals to Calfee’s new branding.  The change was, well… amazing in terms of making the tandem look fresh and new again…

Of course, were in something of a unique position to be able to re-decal the tandem as well as our Calfee singles for several reasons:

  1. Our Calfee tandem and singles are not painted nor clear-coated; they’re raw carbon, aka, ‘nude’
  2. Having owned three nude Calfee’s for 13 years, I’ve learned how to work on the raw carbon finish, e.g., sanding out scratches & nicks as well as removing decals
  3. Given a 20+ year relationship with Craig and being a customer for 13 years, they have been willing to trust me enough to send me the decals I needed
  4. I’m cocky enough to think there’s not much I can’t do related to bicycles given the motivation, enough knowledge, the right tools and a few spare parts in case I screw something up as part of the learning process.

Therefore, seeing how well the tandem turned out and having embraced the new branding, the next logical move was to give our two single Calfee bikes a similar re-nude and decal update.  With that in mind, I sent off a note to Craig and his sales manager, Richard, with a request for two sets of single bike decals back on 12 August and they arrived five days later on the 15th.

The Test Application

In the interim and having remembered I had a few left-over spare decals from the tandem re-do, on 14 Aug I went ahead and removed all the decals from Debbie’s frame, gave the raw carbon frame tubes where the decals had been applied and a few other spots a light sanding and final cleaning with solvent before doing a ‘beta test’ decal application using those left-over down tube decals from the tandem.  Given the smaller diameter of the single bike down tubes, I wasn’t sure how best to place the decals to get the “right look.”

As with the tandem, once I had the new decals applied I really liked how they looked even on the smaller single bike frame. I was glad I had a chance to play with some ‘throw-away’ decals as I’ll need to adjust the placement of the decals on the down tube to get that right look.  Interestingly enough, even though the new decals look larger in every dimension than the original Calfee branding, they are the same height; that was something of a surprise.

The Actual Installation

With the two sets of decals in hand on the 15th and a rainy day keeping me from riding on the following day, I spent the majority of my productive time on the 16th in the garage removing the old decals from our Calfee single bikes, prepping the frames and then applying the new decals.  I started a little after noon and finished up around 4:30pm.


While both bikes looked good, at least from normal viewing distances, I still wasn’t pleased with the placement of the down tube decals on Debbie’s bike; they were just too low. And, to be honest I screwed-up and made an assumption about a center line marking on the decals that was clearly wrong.  Instead of trusting my judgement, I wrongly assumed, “Oh, they put that mark between the two down tube decals to help with positioning the decals on the downtube.”  After realizing my error on Debbie’s bike, I corrected the placement on my Calfee and ordered some additional decals from Richard at Calfee so I could re-do Debbie’s down tube and also have a full set of decals in the event any of the three bikes ever has a decal that gets buggered-up and needs a replacement.

However, on my bike, the down tube also gave me some trouble as it has some complex curves and shapes associated with the bonded-on water bottle cage bosses and down tube shifter bosses / cable stops… something that was a carry-over from the CarbonFrames bikes to the very early Calfee’s.  If you look closely at Debbie’s Calfee Luna Pro which is a few years older, those shifter bosses are gone and, instead, non-adjustable cable cable stops are affixed to the head tube which was adopted for the entire Calfee line. Also, more traditional threaded inserts were used for water bottle cage attachment on the Luna, although the bonded-on water bottle bosses are still used on most of the other Calfee models today but with a smaller footprint that doesn’t seem to encroach on the new decal placement just looking at the Calfee customer bike galleries. The point being, these decals are not pliable and meant to go on straight tubes with a constant radius.  With my frame being relatively small at 54cm, the decals HAD to go on top of those complex contours and it was the bulges around the shifter bosses that created some very fine overlap lines in the decals and, to a lesser extent, at the water bottle boss.

Given these aren’t show bikes and I’m likely the only one who’ll ever notice these minor imperfections, I’m not sure I want to even bother messing with a re-do of those in the hope I’ll get a better result.  Instead, I think I’ll live with it “as is” and hold a set of replacement decals in reserve in case I ever decided to take a second shot at it.  All that said, overall… the bikes look great with the new decals!  Again, as we experienced with the tandem, it’s like getting new bikes without the expense!

Decal Application, Take Two

As mentioned, I ordered several extra decals from Calfee that arrived on 1 Sept.  On the following Sunday I replaced the CALFEE decals from Debbie’s Calfee Luna Pro that I placed a bit too low with the new ones. My placement was far-better this time.  I also went ahead and removed the small-size Calfee nautilus logo on the head tube (as that’s how it was originally finished) with the larger one used on most other Calfee’s and that looks better too.

And, me being me, I went ahead and decided to replace just one of the down tube CALFEE decals on my Tetra Pro in the hope that I’d get a better result on the “worst” of the two original decal applications.  While it wasn’t perfect, it was better and I think if I made one more attempt at it I now know enough about how these decals behave to conquer that shifter boss contour.  However, I’m going to hold off as it’s definitely “good enough” and can wait until such time as there’s a better reason to replace those decals.

So, here’s an updated “Family Portrait” of our Calfee collection:

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It’s Amazing How Tires & Wheels Can Transform A Bike

Note: Somehow, the version of my thoughts on tires and wheels as initially published last evening was not the final one, it was an earlier draft that lacked several photos, edits and formatting changes. I have updated it to the one I intended to publish, along with some additional comments on wheel design prompted by a posted comment as well as a private note I received. Sorry about that and thanks for reading.

A comment by long-time friend TandemRacer (aka, David) on my previous post is yet another great segue to one of several posts I’ve had in draft.  And, to be honest, if you follow my weekly journal at “Riding Two Up” a lot of this will be redundant; sorry about that.

Regardless, David — who has far more competitive riding experience than I do and who has easily logged 50-times as many miles either training, racing on the road, track, dirt or even on tandems (he and his spouse did what I believe was the last Co-Motion Classic and also raced off-road a couple times) — noted:

“The biggest real improvement in bikes in the past 20 years has been the move to higher volume tires. Fat tires with supple casings make a huge difference in the comfort and handling of a road bike while also likely improving efficiency.”

Some Background… or, why I think the way I do

Having grown up on road racing bicycles with skinny sew-ups and then clinchers in the 70’s and 80’s, I can vividly recall riding on 700 x 18mm and 20mm tires well into the 90’s on my ’84 Raleigh Prestige, mostly Continental sew-ups, but also clinchers on my 1992 Trek 2300.  I’m not sure why, perhaps because of marketing and trends in professional road and track racing, skinny tires at very high pressure while not necessarily comfortable, sure seemed like they delivered faster times and higher speeds on good road and track conditions.

Even when we first stepped into the world of tandeming, I fitted our 1996/97 Santana Arriva with a set of 700 x 23 Vredestein Fortezza  Tri-Comp tires (poached from my Trek 2300 single bike given how lifeless the Specialized Transition tires 700 x 26 tires were) and never had a second thought about it: they just seemed right and the purple tread compound looked really good on the Royal Plum Pearl colored Arriva.  Of course, having moved to Georgia in 1991, we’ve always been spoiled with wonderful roads that seem to get fresh asphalt every 5-10 years.  Our only dose of reality would come when we ventured into Alabama with their “chip-seal” version of paving or “up North” where concrete roads with expansion joints and worn-out asphalt with patches and “tar snakes” were the norm.  I’d always “up-size” our tires to 25mm, which was about as large as we could go on our newer Erickson tandems with their very tire-size limited AME / TrueTemper Alpha-Q carbon forks.

In fact, the very idea a shock absorbing seat post was needed for a stoker on a tandem never clicked… until we rode on a concrete bike way at the 2003 Midwest Tandem Rally in Dayton, Ohio.  However, it was at the 2004 Southwest Tandem Rally in New Braunfels, Texas, where I finally understood why Jan Heine had for all of those years I’d been reading his posts on various forums as well as his Vintage Bicycle Quarterly was an advocate for large volume, wide tires, rims and frames that were purpose built to accommodate them.  Even with the 700 x 25 tires on our Erickson travel tandem deflated to perhaps 85psi we found ourselves feeling as though we were having to ride up and over every Texas-size “chip” in the chip-seal. Our mountain bike tandem would have had less rolling resistance!

I guess my point in all of this is, there are a lot of things about bicycles that can influence how they feel, handle and perform.  But, quite honestly, it really does seem to come down to where the rubber meets the road, and just how much rubber, air-pressure and wheel design / weight / drag that truly defines what you’re feeling.

Years ago, we all knew aluminum delivered a harsh ride, whereas we knew SL steel and titanium were far more compliant. Well, I’m here to tell you, even though I bought into all of that, I’m now of a mind it’s tire, wheel and tire pressure that truly define the ride and handling qualities of the average cyclist’s bicycles, regardless of what type of material was used for the frame.  Yes, there are definitely some materials that do a better job of dampening vibration and some frames do — as Jan has described — plane better than others.  But, I’ve found I can quickly alter all of that with a change of wheels, different size tires, adjusting air pressure and/or a combination of all the foregoing.

And, prompted by a friend’s feedback, let me expand a bit on wheels. When I say “a wheel” I’m inferring to a given wheel design as a whole: it’s rim design, dimensions and material, the spoke material, count, design and arrangement or any other method used to connect the rim to the wheel axle, and the hubs. There are enough different wheel designs and theories on wheel design to fill volumes of books, just as there are when it comes to tire bicycle tire design.  Even the basic, conventional bicycle wheel can be created from a wide variety of spokes of different materials, gauges, butting and in so many different lacing patterns to achieve a desired characteristic, e.g., a 48 spoke wheel with triple butted spokes laced 5x for maximum load capacity vs. an 18 spoke wheel with bladed spokes in a radial lacing for light weight and low drag time trials.  Moreover, with the advent of the high-end integrated wheelsets — from conventional-looking wheels with carbon rims or composite spokes all the way to dish wheels — the options are truly endless but all come with trade-offs on cost, reliability, ease of repair and durability.

And, with that in mind… after a lot of words for something that started out to be a short introduction, here’s the original subject line: Hey, I put new wheels on my Calfee Single Bike!

I stepped-off a slippery slope a few weeks back when I was out on a ride from the house aboard my single Calfee Tetra Pro, merely wishing I was on the Calfee Tetra tandem with Miss Debbie.  We’ve not had a lot of tandem time since July for a variety of reasons, so I’d been rediscovering riding solo.  And, as I was finding myself out on the road by myself it dawned on me how much of an impact making a “technology upgrade” as well as a “cosmetic upgrade” to our Calfee tandem back in February had made that perhaps it was time to do the same for the Calfee single bikes.

Yes, we have at trio of Calfee’s: my 1997/98 Calfee Tetra Pro I bought second hand in 2007 as a way of making sure carbon was the way to go for our next tandem and, well, it was.  So, enter the Calfee Tetra tandem and a mere 4 miles into the first ride Miss Debbie when asked, “So how do you like the ride?” responded with, “Well, I know what I want for my next single bike.”  It wasn’t long after I found her a second hand Calfee Luna Pro.

So, the first thing that came to mind was finding a second set of Campagnolo Eurus G3 wheels — 2008 – 2009 vintage or there abouts —  as I’d bought a new set of those to use on the Calfee that somehow ended up on Debbie’s Calfee.  Well, OK: I was worried about putting too many miles on the wheels, thus hastening their life, and knew Debbie’s petite form was ideally suited to the svelte wheels and would make her riding experience a bit more sporty.  I replaced the G3’s with a not-too-shabby conventional set of wheels I’d built up with Campy Record hubs, a lightweight Mavic 32h Open Pro wheels and DB Sapim spokes that were originally on my ’99 Erickson single which I’d stripped for parts to build-up Debbie’s Calfee.

That set of G3’s have held-up incredibly well with easily 15,000 miles of use, never once going out of true and the internals looking like new when I pulled them apart for a service check at 12,000 miles.  So, that’s what I went looking for, found and then rolled the dice and purchased in the hope they were as good as they looked in the photos and as described.  They were!

When they arrived they appeared to be a year or two newer model than the ones on Debbie’s Calfee (new, bolder graphics, etc.) and in equally good condition with nothing more than normal wear.  A spin in the truing stand confirmed they were still as true as they day they were built, and spoke tension was also good all around. When I pulled the hubs apart the internals were in like-new condition. In fact, the factory lubricants were in pristine shape with no indication of any contamination or degradation.

After cleaning, lubricating, re-assembling and putting them on my Calfee with a set of worn-in but not yet worn-out Vredestein Fortezza 700 x 25’s — as well as a just-cleaned rear cassette and chain with fresh lubricant — I headed out for a short 13-mile ride to see how they felt and performed as compared to the Open Pro/Campy Record wheelset I’d ridden on two days earlier.

It suffices to say, the ride qualities of the Calfee were quite different.  While my average speed was only up a few tenths, the “feel” of the bike was now far more light and nimble, with a lot more road vibration and feel. In other words, it was a more lively, lighter and aggressive feeling bike than it had been with the other wheels.  And, well, that should be no surprise since the G3 wheelset was 1.5 lbs lighter with half as many spokes and they also looked pretty slick.  So, as you’d expect, I was very happy with my decision to “freshen up” my 23-year old Calfee.

Just to make sure I wasn’t kidding myself on how much of a difference the wheels made, I took my Erickson single bike with it’s conventional Campy Chorus/Mavic CXP33 wheelset out for a 25-mile ride the day after I rode the Calfee with the G3’s.  (Yes, I built back-up the Erickson in 2016 using the parts from the Ritchey Logic Pro Debbie had been riding before she got her own Calfee. It hadn’t been ridden on the road ever since, having been relegated to a stationary trainer.)

As you might imagine, going from a 18.2 lb carbon bike with the G3 wheels to the 22.2 lb steel Erickson with the 2 lb – heavier wheelset made for a sluggish feeling ride.  The following day, the G3’s went on the Erickson and voila, just like the Calfee on it’s first ride with the G3’s, the ride feel and characteristics were very different. It was a much lighter, agile feeling bike with the same additional road feel/vibration that makes for a more lively, aggressive riding experience.

What’s the point of all this, other than gloating over some cool, new wheels?

It’s amazing how much wheels and tires can change how a bicycle feels.  And, you don’t have to drop a lot of money to change how your existing bike with it’s existing wheels performs.  As for allowing you to go faster, meh. To the point David made in the opening quote, I think I’ve gotten to the point where I get how riding a bike that’s easier and more comfortable to ride will, over the course of a long distance ride, probably do more to improve the average rider’s experience and performance. But, then again, sometimes you just want to go and have one of those invigorating rides with lots of out of the saddle climbs, bombing the descents and feeling like the rider you really wish you were.  Well, you can do all of those things, and even some of them on the same bike.

Just adjusting the tire pressure from “rock hard” to something that gives you a slight bulge when you put your full weight on the bike will do a lot to take the edge off a harsh feeling bike.  Yes, it will also feel like it’s wallowing around through the corners or when up and out of the saddle because, well, it is.  But, after a ride or two, it will become a new normal.  And, the opposite is true: if feel you bike is sluggish and wallows around a bit too much, check your tire pressures and make sure they’re where they should be. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had a bike where I didn’t need to top off the air every day before a ride to get it back where I wanted it.

Changing tire size, type (wire vs. folding), brands, compounds, thread count, etc. can all alter how a bike feels and handles.  And, of course, there is always the option of a high-end, performance wheelset.  Although, to be quite honest and since this is a tandem thread, I’ve owned and ridden on a lot of different go-fast wheelsets from Rolf, to Topolino’s, to Spinergy and even some lightweight conventional wheelsets with as few as 28 spokes.  For the tandem, I’m sold on running 36h conventional wheelsets and would not use any of the boutique wheels as my every day choice.  Yes, they feel great but IMHO, the juice ain’t worth the squeeze.  Save them for those special rides when you want to have that “extra boost” even if it’s a placebo effect that makes you go a bit faster.

Now, getting back to those wider, large volume tires… 

There’s something I still need to explore.  I have zero recent experience since the last time I had a road bike with large volume tires was my 1966 24″ Schwinn Typhoon bike  with 24″ x 1 3/4″ tires: my dad said I’d grow into it when I got it for my 6th birthday.

The Typhoon was replaced by Schwinn Deluxe Racer with 26″ x 1 3/8″ tires and after that, it was 27″ x 1″ racing tire bikes, followed by the 700 x 25, 23, 20 and 18’s. So, I’m out of my depth when it comes to higher volume tires.

Posted in Technology & Equip. | 3 Comments

When Is Newer Really Better?

When you’re in the bicycle business… not that there’s anything wrong with that!  Seriously, we have a lot of friends in the industry and I’m ever thankful for what they do to support cycling.  But, it is an industry that requires constant change to drive new business and especially repeat business.

I was foreshadowing this follow-up piece to my personal bicycle ownership history wherein I included an observation regarding the seemingly very high cost of new upper-end bicycles.  I rhetorically noted how I felt my older frames were likely still “good enough” given the biggest limiting factor when it comes to performance, reliability and endurance is the motor… not the bike.

I was pleased to see a couple of comments posted in response to that piece.  In the first, a reader shared his personal perspective on how newer, high-end racing bicycles compare to the older high-end racing bicycles:

I recently rode a Colnago Super from the late 70s handmade by Ernesto Colnago himself. I raced on this bike as a junior and Cat 2. At the time I thought it was really an ultimate road bike; but compared to any high end racing bike currently being made it now feels slow, sluggish, inefficient and not all that great in handling.

I can relate to that kind of a comparison, as the bikes in the 70’s in their original stock form with 5-cog freewheels, friction shifting, marginal brakes, conventional wheel sets and steel forks at the basic level, perhaps a step above with a lightweight set of tubular rims and tires, are very different machines from even what we enjoyed in the 1990’s.  And, given the changes in component standards, there’s really not a good, cost effective way to bring a 50-year old frame up to date, even if it was a steel frame where you could widen the rear stays via cold-set.

Another reader offered a well-constructed comment that began with question, followed by thoughts that align closely to my own perspectives on the current, state of the high-end bicycle market:

Are the current mass-manufactured high-end frames really worth their prices? In theory a competitive market should ensure that prices reflect cost plus a modest profit but this is only true for commodities. High-end bikes and components have become Veblen goods with pricing deeply distorted by marketing and perception. It doesn’t help that only a few large incumbents have the finances to run marketing and operations at a global scale.

I do not mean to impound the performance of these products. They are indeed very performing in a narrow sense. Other criteria exist, such as vulnerability to crashes, long-term durability, repairability or freedom from premature obsolescence due to proprietary components, where their performance is frankly inadequate and a step back from earlier technology.

The prices charged for these frames are also surprising given that they often have very poor manufacturing tolerances as well as voids and wrinkles in the carbon layup, leading to creakings, poor bearing life, etc. Current high-end frames from the major brands make a custom frame look like a very good investment.

Being a bit of a cycling history buff, this is a never-ending cycle of always trying to come up with the next best thing to sustain the bicycle industry.  You can clearly see this in the cycling catalogs produced in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s for marketing what was, at that time, the cutting edge of personal mobility technology supported by the best and brightest minds. These are the same people who went on to develop the internal combustion engine, motorcycles, cars and both glider and powered aircraft, e.g., Wilbur and Orville Wright started out in the bicycle business.

But, as noted above, I firmly believe the rider who powers the bicycle is still the greatest limiting factor when it comes to performance.  To that end, I can vividly recall a “kid” in volleyball shorts and a t-shirt on an old, beat-up Schwinn Varsity blowing by me dressed in my lycra racing kit aboard my very nice at the time 1984 Raleigh Prestige while riding a pretty brisk tempo as I headed back to Redlands from Huntington Beach California on the Santa Ana River Trail in the late 1980’s.  I’ve also been out on the road with professional level cyclists and the level of performance attained by even Cat 3 and Cat 2 riders is, well humbling.  As was one-time said to an aspiring young cyclist who, despite training as hard as he could to break into the next level of amateur bicycle racing when he asked a Cat 1 Pro’s trainer what he needed as was told: different parents with better genes to have passed along.   Yup: it’s not about the bike… and the clothes don’t make the cyclist.  And, to a certain extent, your physiology and genes will determine your abilities as well as your limitations.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there have been a lot of technologies introduced over the years that have made newer bicycles more user-friendly, easier to ride and service, such as integrated brake & gear shifting controls, widespread adoption of sealed cassette bearings, better braking systems, wider-range gearing and the splined-cassette hub.

However, there have also been far too many “new standards” for bottom brackets, headsets and fork steerers, hub widths and axle sizes to accommodate disc brakes, belt drives as well as 9, 10, 11 & 12 speed shifting systems that make finding parts for a bike designed for a short-lived “new standard” a bit of a challenge which begs the question: was it really a standard?

Add in proprietary shifting geometry by component manufacturers like Campagnolo, SRAM and Shimano and gone is the ability to swap-out components or make upgrades without doing a cost-prohibitive grouppo change-out.  Moreover,  these more complex components designed with as-light-as-possible parts have proven to be more problematic than the simple systems they replaced and many are no longer repairable; it’s simply remove and replace. I’ve not yet been sold on the electronic shifting so I can’t comment other than to note that having used it on both road and off-road bicycles, it didn’t strike me as a solution to a problem or a innovation on the level of the integrated brake and gear shifting controls.

As for the frames, again… with all of the “new standards” for key frame features like bottom bracket and head tube designs to accommodate the latest and greatest innovation, keeping one of the old “new bikes” fresh can become an even bigger challenge than finding parts for a bike from the 1990’s… back when the standard for bottom brackets and head tube dimensions have been fixed for decades, as had most of the drop-out dimensions on the very different types of bikes, e.g., road @ 130mm, off-road at 135mm, tandems at 145mm, etc., using similar axles and hub designs.

I suspect that’s one of the reasons I lost interest in trying to keep up with the latest and greatest in the 2000’s and just started buying up “old frames” from the late 90’s.  Given all of them are relatively common with regard to bottom brackets, headsets, forks, seat posts and wheels such that I can freely swap components from bike to bike or find older, cast off parts other folks are parting with to “upgrade” one of the bikes with a new/old set of wheels or a new/old but better than what I have carbon fork or some such.  The same is true of my late 90’s mountain bikes, both of which have had at least one major component upgrade over the years.

Interestingly enough, our tandems are the newest bikes in the garage these days. However, even those are getting long in the tooth at 18 years for the Ventana, 13 years for the Calfee and about the same for the Precision triplet.

So, yeah… I’m a bit of a troglodyte when it comes to bicycles and technology these days. I look at the size of these bikes and the price tags as well as the complexity of the parts and remain thankful that I still have all the tools I need to service everything in my garage.

And, as I said earlier, I know that I’m still the weakest link when it comes to how reliable and well those bikes perform.  If it want one to go faster, I need to stop logging enjoyable ‘junk miles’ and get serious about setting some riding goals.  If I want to ride more technical terrain on the trails, I just need to have my head examined.  I mean, who wants to beat up an already brittle, well worn body where the risks are clearly not worth the reward!

Next up:  Recent single bike updates!  After giving our Calfee Tandem a make-over this past winter, I got to thinking that the Calfee single bikes probably needed a little attention and then one thing led to another.

  • The “fleet” gets a new/old second Campy Eurus wheelset
  • The Dean gets a new fork
  • The Calfee’s get the “re-nude” treatment and new decals
  • The Bianchi MegaPro-L gets built-up after 13 years in storage
Posted in Advice & Commentary, Editorials & Rants, Technology & Equip. | 3 Comments

Can You Remember Every Bicycle You’ve Ever Owned?

Over the past year I’ve created a few posts that have cataloged all of the tandems we’ve owned on this blog, as well as all of the motorcycle as well as all of the cars & trucks I’ve owned on my other blog.

I recently posted something on Facebook regarding all of the “old” bicycles that currently make up the pool of bicycles that I use for both road and off-road riding.  What was of note that that most of them are built on high-end frames, hand-made in the U.S. by low-volume boutique builders, e.g, Calfee, Ventana, Dean, Erickson, Ritchey with a couple of Bianchi’s thrown in there.  That prompted me to create a list of all of the bicycles that I’ve “owned” since childhood.

I thought about adding photos of each of these bikes — given that I actually have photos of most of them — but at least for the time being I’ve decided the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.  So, at least for those of you who see this today, there isn’t an accompanying photo collection.  Perhaps in time I’ll add them.

In closing, having recently visited a bike shop and seen the kind of money shops are asking for high-end, essentially mas-produced bikes made in Asia with price tags of $2,500 to $9.500 for single road and off-road bikes, I’m pretty sure those old late 1990’s hand-made frames I’m still riding will do just fine considering that the biggest limiting factor when it comes to performance, reliability and endurance is the motor… not the bike itself.  Given that limitation, my old bike frames sporting a few replacement parts are more than up to the job of handling anything I can dole-out with my 60+ year old body.

  • 1962 – Sister’s hand-me-down Schwinn Hollywood
  • 1964 – New Schwinn Typhoon
  • 1967 – New Schwinn Racer 3 spd.
  • 1972 – New Araya Rex
  • 1975 – New Raleigh Gran Prix
  • 1983 – New Raleigh Gran Prix
  • 1986 – Used 1984 Raleigh Prestige
  • 1989 – New Kuwahara Cougar MTB
  • 1992 – New Trek 2300
  • 1993 – New Novara Aspen (for Debbie)
  • 1998 – New Pro Flex 857 F/S MTB (Son Has It)
  • 1996/7 – New Santana Arriva Tandem
  • 1998 – New Erickson Signature Tandem
  • 1999 – Used 1998 C’dale MT3000 MTB Tandem
  • 1999 – New Erickson Signature (Still Have It)
  • 1999 – Used 1997 Schwinn Peloton (for Debbie)
  • 2000 – NOS* 1997 Ventana ECDM F/S MTB Tandem
  • 2000 – NOS* Ventana Marble Peak F/S MTB (Still Have It)
  • 2001 – Used 1998 Dean Castanza Ti (Still Have It)
  • 2002 – New Ventana ECDM F/S MTB Tandem (Still Have It)
  • 2002 – New Erickson Custom Travel Tandem
  • 2003 – Used 2000 Ritchey Road Logic (for Debbie/Still Have It)
  • 2003 – NOS* 1998 Bianchi TdF Replica (Still Have It)
  • 2005 – New Bianchi Pista/Track Bike (Still Have It)
  • 2007 – Used 1997 Calfee Tetra Pro (Still Have It)
  • 2007 – New Calfee Custom Travel Tandem (Still Have It)
  • 2008 – Used 1999 Calfee Luna Pro (for Debbie/Still Have it)
  • 2012 – Used 2008(?) Performance Tandems – Triplet (Still Have It)
  • 2013 – Used 2002 Dean Scout MTB (Still Have It)

* New / Old Stock

Posted in Advice & Commentary | 2 Comments

The Future of Tandem Rallies & Other Thoughts

Just when long-time readers may have rightfully assumed I’d given up writing about tandem cycling, I suddenly find myself moved to write something about tandem cycling.

As noted in the title of this post, I found myself looking at the 24 some-odd road tandem rallies and events that were cancelled — or in some cases postponed until 2021 — and have to wonder, will tandem rallies ever be the same with this profound break in time?

Let’s face it, the stalwarts of tandem rallies are the folks who started riding tandems back in the 1970′ – 1980’s.  Even folks like us who “joined the tandem lifestyle” in the 1990’s (late 1990’s in fact), are now in our 60’s and we’re still in the lower half of the age demographic.

So, as I look at the 2020 tandem calendar with all of it’s cancellations and try to think ahead to what the 2021 tandem rally event calendar might look like, I’m reminded that the SARS-CoV-2 virus will still be with us next year, regardless of who wins the White House.  Yes, the media might not give it as much attention, but people will continue to become infected, get sick (or not) and die (or not) pretty much as they have thus far?  In fact, if the media decides to focus on something else and suddenly starts to downplay the risks, the virus may become even more deadly as people drift back into old habits.  Or, will they?

And, therein lies the crux of my question: what is the future of tandem cycling and tandem rallies given how many “teams” are in those fragile age brackets given the risks associated with social gatherings which are the real reason people go to tandem rallies.

Interestingly enough, there is something of an exception with regard to tandem cyclists when it comes to the off-road tandem enthusiasts who seem to be pre-disposed to embracing a bit more risk in general.  To their credit, they’re the ones who have been the most reluctant to cancel their events and still have a few on the calendar for late 2020.  And, given the format… that’s not necessarily hard to understand. The off-road tandem events — an in particular the S.O.R.T.A. (Self-Organized Off-Road Tandem Adventures) events draw in a dozen or so teams, not 70 to 100. Their rally headquarters are usually in a camp ground where 1/2 of the attendees show up with campers or RVs, the other half find a hotel room near by.  There aren’t huge indoor gatherings; it’s a come as you are meet and greet at an outdoor campsite. So, the risks normally associated with the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus are greatly reduced.

Anyway, it will be interesting to watch.  As for us, it’s hard to know if tandem cycling will continue to be such a central part of our lives.

  • Debbie has lost all interest in off-road tandem cycling.  To her, the risks of a fall and getting hurt now that we’re in our 60’s is just a bit too hard to justify for the momentary thrill of “playing in the dirt.”
  • Road tandem cycling has also taken a back-seat to indoor exercise and aerobics, noting that she has always seen cycling as a form of exercise, not really a life-long recreational pursuit the way I have.  I love cycling, whereas she sees it as a way of getting exercise with a more scenic view.

So, you may or may not see us “on the road” in the future as life is like that. Chapters close and new ones open.

Posted in Advice & Commentary | 2 Comments


Sadly, and not totally unexpected in light of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCOV (COVID-19) pandemic, many of the 2020 tandem cycling events and rallies have been cancelled or postponed / rescheduled with new dates.

The following are the changes we are aware of and several other events are presently  pending decisions by their organizers in light of CDC as well as state, county & local official direction and guidance.

We will update & repost this blog entry as we learn of additional changes.  In short, all of the major tandem rally’s that we were aware of were cancelled or postponed in 2020:

7/5 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • Florida Tandem Rally, 16-18 Oct, The Villages, FL
      • Southern Tandem Rally, 23-26 Oct, Tupelo, MS

7/3 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • Georgia Tandem Rally, 3-6 Sep, Tifton, GA

6/28 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • Middle of the Mitten SOORTA, 23-26 July, Bellaire, Michigan(Off-Road)
      • Amishland and Lakes, 25-26 July, LaGrange, IN
      • MATES 2020, 14-16 Aug, Boiling Springs, PA.
      • Midwest Tandem Rally, 4-7 Sep, Racine, WI
        • Postponed until 2021

5/11 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • Elephant Rock Cycling Festival, 6 Jun, Castle Rock, CO (Off-Road)
        • Postponed and moved tentatively to 11 October
      • Saranac Lake Tandem Rally, 19-21 Jun, Saranac Lake, NY,
      • Northwest Tandem Rally, 3-6 July, Chaney, WA.
        • Postponed until 2021
      • International Tandem Rally, 22-29 Aug,  Salviac Lot, France

4/21 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • TandemsEast – Tandem Weekend, 15-17 May, Wildwood Crest, NJ
        • Postponed and rescheduled to May 2021
      • COWs Spring Rally, 15-17 May, Wausau, WI
      • Canadian Tandem Rally, 22-25 May, Gananoque, Ontario.
      • HOOTs Tandem Weekend, 29-31 May, Michigan City, IN,
      • Southwest Missouri Tandem Weekend, 29-31 May, Springfield,

3/28 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • Alabama Tandem Weekend, 2-5 April, Dothan, AL
      • Horsey 100 (Non-Tandem But Tandem Friendly), 22-24 May, Lexington, KY

3/24 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • UK National Tandem Rally, 23-30 May, Corsham, West Wiltshire, England.
      • 38th Annual Kent County Spring Fling, 22-25 May, Chestertown, MD

3/22 – Added cancellations / postponements for:

      • Wheels and Waterfalls, 7-10 May, DuPont St. Forest, NC (Off-Road)
      • Coldspring Tandem Weekend, 27-29 Mar, Coldspring, TX  (Off-Road)

Original Cancellations / Postponement List 3/15 

      • Cheers & Gears Ride (Formerly Ridgeland OBO Tandem Rally), 3-5 April, Ridgeland, MS
      • OPEN HOUSE: TandemsEast – Tandem Expo, 4-5 April, Pittsgrove, NJ
      • UK Tandem Rally – Easter, 9-13 Apr, Greenhill Leisure Park, Bletchingdon Oxfordshire (Postponed to 2021)
      • Southwest Tandem Rally , 16-19 April, Kerrville, TX
      • Georgia Rally Pre-Tour, 12-14 May, Cordele, GAt.
      • Georgia Tandem Rally, 14-17 May, Tifton, GA  (Postponed to Sept)
      • Eastern Tandem Rally (ETR’s Homepage), 15-17 May, Long Island, NY
      • TandemsEast – Tandem Weekend, 15-17 May, Wildwood, NJ (Postponed)  
      • 38th Annual Kent County Spring Fling, 22-25 May, Chestertown, MD

Posted in Events, Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

Sharing the Road: Georgia’s 3 Foot Rule

So Debbie and I went out for a ride on our single bikes today…

Unlike it has been over the past weeks, today there was a sudden surge in motorists back on the roads and back to their “normal” behaviors. Normal, as in doing 50+ in the 35 mph zones, having zero patience and passing too closely, not yielding for a moment to allow on-coming traffic to pass safely, and the guys with little brains and other bits in big trucks “rollin’ coal” and generally being ignorant on these two truths:

1. It is true that in Georgia, you must give cyclists 3 feet of distance from the side of your vehicle when passing: we’re lucky if we sometimes get 1 foot from some of these “triggered” motorists. The law was passed back in 2011.

2. The average stoplight has motorists sitting dead in the water for 2-3 minutes on average. However, slowing down and being delayed for 20 seconds behind a bicycle so you can hurry to that stoplight is somehow worth putting the cyclists and on-coming motortists lives at risk.

Now, to be fair, 80% of the motorists are great, patient and considerate. But 5% don’t have a clue how to safely pass a bicyclist even when there’s no on-coming traffic and you’re trying to wave them by as they back-up traffic… traffic that gets mad at the cyclist not the driver with poor motoring skills. The other 15%, yeah…. those are the ones we worry about along with people on phones.

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Posted in Advocacy & Access | 2 Comments

Our Tandems: 1997 to Now

This is actually something of a re-post / cross-posting from something I shared out on the Facebook Group Tandem Bicycling USA a few days back.  However, since I tend to delete most of my posts, comments and photos on Facebook, I decided I’d just move our tandem resume to my blog.  So, for those who’ve already seen this, it’s pretty much the same. For those who haven’t seen this… well, here you have it: a chronological recap of the tandems that we’ve owned since August 1997.

A photo from May 2012, when we had four tandems in the stable; left to right: the 2008 Calfee, the 1998 Erickson, the 2006ish Precision triplet and our 2002 Ventana ECDM. Of the four, only the 1998 Erickson has been sold. We still have the other three.

Our 1st road tandem: a 1997/1997 Santana Arriva we bought from Jack & Susan Goertz of Tandems Limited back in August 1997. We put a lot of miles on this tandem in the year and 3 months we owned it and yes, it was far from stock. It didn’t even make it out of the shop with the original shifters, going from barcons to Sachs Ergo… and I did the upgrade in Jacks’s basement/shop while he worked with other customers. We sold and shipped it to a couple somewhere near El Paso, TX, in Oct 1998.

Our 1st off-road tandem, a 1998 Cannondale MT3000: an awesome bike that introduced us to off-road, single track tandems and helped to launch DoubleForte, my off-road tandem discussion group. It was bought lightly used in early 1999, enjoyed for about 18 months and then sold & shipped to a couple in New England.

Our 1st of two Erickson tandems. We ordered this in June 1998 and took delivery in late fall. It was a Signature model, full campy and we logged well over 30,000 miles on this tandem from 1998 through 2008 when it was fully replaced by our 2008 Calfee. We sold & delivered it to some friends in Florida in 2013 who, subsequently sold it to long-time friends a couple years back who keep it in California.

Our 1997 Ventana El Conquistador. I bought this as a frame-only back in December 2000 for $1,100 and rode the heck out of it. When our friend Alex Nutt decided to become a boutique off-road tandem dealer, in 2001/2002 we ordered a new, custom Ventana to replace this one. This was sold and shipped to someone in Sacramento, CA, in mid-2002. UPS lost the 2nd of two boxes that had contained the fork and wheels, if you can believe. Oh yeah, they paid for that: it was supposed to be signature service.

This was our 2002 Erickson Custom Travel Tandem. I ordered it during April 2002 and, well, this one took a bit of time to get. The first frame was inadvertently built as a non-travel tandem, so there was a do-over. But, we took delivery in late fall 2002. It shared riding duties with our 1998 Erickson for 6 years, eventually selling it to a couple from Kentucky in 2007 who took delivery at the Southern Tandem Rally in Chattanooga, TN, after we ordered our 2008 Calfee travel tandem. I would LOVE to get this tandem back.

Our 2002 Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas, (King of the Mountain) custom. As mentioned, when our friend Alex Nutt decided to become the 1st boutique off-road tandem dealer in the U.S. (and probably the world), we helped him get his internet / home-based business started, to include ordering what was the very first MTB Tandem sold. I knew Sherwood Gibson at this point and we worked out the specs for this tandem over the phone and, to the best of my knowledge, it’s the 1st (and perhaps only) “Signature” Ventana, as I asked Sherwood to sign the frame with a Sharpie before he shipped it out. We still own it, but don’t ride it that often as Debbie lost her off-road tandem mojo a few years back.

I call this our 2008 Calfee Tetra Custom S&S even though the frame was built and originally delivered in December 2007. However, it had to go right back to La Selva beach for a few little tweaks, thus… it didn’t get built-up until early January 2008. Best tandem ever! We’ve easily put 30,000 miles on this tandem and it’s gone through a lot of wheelsets and two major component upgrades and many minor ones. It has multiple brake configurations, can sport mudguards and a rear rack for touring and is best of all, nearly mar-proof since it’s unpainted carbon simply one of the most comfortable tandems we’ve ever ridden. This is how it looked early and sporting a set of Topolino Wheels. The Topo’s rode very well, but ultimately proved to be not all that durable over time, plagued by spoke nipple and rim fatigue failures.

This is a 2006ish triplet designed and sold new in 2008 or so by Mark Johnson of Precision Tandems to a family in Macon, Georgia. The frame was fabricated by the folks at R&E Cycles / Dennis Bushnell in Seattle, WA. The couple found their daughter wasn’t all that interested in riding the big bike so it went up for sale in 2011. I bought it in April 2012 after discovering and becoming smitten with the big 3 seaters at the Alabama Tandem Weekend a month earlier. I included this photo because as soon as I took it home it received a major make-over. But, this is how it started life.

This is same 2006ish Precision triplet after the make-over. Just about everything but the shifters, 2 of 3 crank sets and fork was replaced and the frame was stripped, bad-welds hidden by bondo and repainted by Hill Clarke at Airglow (no longer a going concern) in Washington, Georgia, during late April / early May. We’ve had several different tail gunners on the bike, ranging from the petit Miss Lisa and Miss Brenda to 6’2″ tall Tim P. (in the middle) during periodic use since 2012. It typically get’s used at two tandem rallies each year, with an occasion one-day fun ride thrown in. It only weighs about 39 – 40 lbs as it sits. Aluminum, really thin, aluminum.

No, this is not a new Calfee travel tandem. This is just our 2008 Calfee following a recent cosmetic update and the installation of new-to-us FSA SL-K LIght carbon cranks. The bike has never looked or shifted and ridden better!

Posted in Technology & Equip. | 4 Comments

Making Our 12-Year Old Calfee Tandem New Again

Back on 3 February, I published an update wherein I discussed my recently completed swap-out of our old-school, polished aluminum da Vinci crank set for a set of carbon FSA SL-K Light MegaExo cranks as a possible solution to correct some front shifting issues we’ve been having with our Calfee tandem.  The change yielded the hoped-for improvement in front derailleur shifts. However, I found myself struggling a bit with how the tandem looked sporting the fat, dark carbon crank arms and bold graphics vs. the lovely polished aluminum da Vinci cranks that paired nicely with the minimalist white and yellow Calfee decals on our unpainted carbon tandem.

The unintended consequence of the crank change was being put on a path to update the graphics on our frame, something our friend Craig Calfee offered to do back in September 2018 when the frame was back at Calfee Designs in La Selva Beach, California, for a little touch-up work. With that in mind, I did a pseudo Photoshop study to see what our tandem might look like with a set of the bolder Calfee decals in a metallic silver color and liked what I saw.

This past Thursday, 13 February, I shot off a note to Craig to see about getting a set of decals and he passed my note to Jason who had them on their way the next day.  The cost  for the 13 decals — the eight I needed and five extras in case of an oops — including the shipping was very reasonable and they arrived via USPS on Monday, 17 February.

Before I could install the new decals the old ones had to come off.  I used “Goof Off” — essentially acetone — to dissolve and wipe-away the old polyvinyl, acetate based decals.  With the decals removed, there was still something of a shadow of the decals on the carbon. Per Craig’s direction, the shadows were easily removed with a light sanding using 220 grit sandpaper.

On Monday night I put the tandem and a work stand into the foyer so the tandem would be at room temperature on Tuesday when I installed the decals and to give me a warm place to work…

It was mid-morning on Tuesday, 18 February, when I got to work on installing the decals and it went off fairly well.  As mentioned I’d bought a few extra decals to ensure I had the ability to correct any errors or problems I had with the decal installation and ended up only using two of the five spares.

  • The first decal I applied was to the stoker’s seat post. The ‘C’ in California didn’t fully-bond to the frame and split in half as I peeled it away from the application sheet. Knowing that would be the first decal I’d apply, I definitely had a spare and definitely knew to spend more time making sure the decals were firmly affixed to the frame before pulling away the application sheet.
  • The second time I needed a spare was on the forks. While I was able to successfully apply both of the decals, the one on the right leg just didn’t line up exactly with the one on the left leg. So, I had a spare for that decal and used it.
  • Unfortunately, the decals I didn’t think would be problematic were the ones for the rear brake stays so I didn’t buy any spares. Sure enough, on one of the two decals the letter ‘C’ adhered itself to the backing sheet and simply pulled apart when I tried to transfer it to the application sheet.  So, I’ve had to ask the folks at Calfee to send another one.

Even with the one flawed decal I must say I’m really happy with how the frame looks sporting the new decals.  It’s as if we just took delivery of a shiny, new tandem!I remain ever so happy with our decision to omit a painted or clear-coated finish on our 2008 Calfee tandem for a variety of reasons.  It’s just hard to convey how durable the finish is, never mind how visually interesting the older unpainted carbon finish is.  And, if you do get a ding or a scratch in the frame they can easily be sanded-out.  If there is ever a need to repair or modify the frame it also makes it a lot easier to do, noting ours has been back to Calfee three times for tweaks and touch-ups.  Having had the ability to give it a cosmetic make-over for less than the cost of dinner out is yet another one.

However, for those who do own a ‘nude’ Calfee it really is important to keep a coating of Aerospace 303 on the frame to protect the raw carbon, epoxy and decals from UV rays.  I wrote a blog entry about this back in 2010 and, at least for the Calfee frames, unchecked UV light will cause exposed epoxy resin material to yellow and eventually cause the decals to dry-out and crack. These are purely cosmetic issues, not structural or long-term durability issues.  It’s worth noting, Aerospace 303 does give a raw carbon frame a slightly darker and semi-gloss like finish which looks really nice.  However, users should be sure to follow the application instructions and thoroughly wipe-down and buff-off any residual polymers that haven’t soaked into the material as the residual material will “run” when it gets wet, leaving streaks and spots all over the the place.  We saw this on Debbie’s S2000 when I used on the vinyl convertible top and would get nasty streaks all over the paint after rain fall.

Posted in Tandem Folks, Technology & Equip. | 3 Comments

Another Technology Touch-Up for the Calfee: Cranks

A friend put a set of used, 7-year old FSA SL-K Light MegaExo tandem crankset out on Facebook’s Marketplace on Friday, January 17th that had been on their 2013 Calfee.  I’d been thinking about doing a crank change on our own Calfee as a bit of an experiment and the used set of carbon cranks would only cost 25% of what a new set would set me back, once all was said and done.  With that in mind, I went ahead and snapped them up for his asking price later that evening.

As to the experiment, our shifting woes with our own Calfee tandem have continued as I’ve not been able eliminate an annoying front derailleur (FD) cage and chain rub when we’re in the 53/11 or 53/13 gearing.  While using the Shimano instructions for the ST-6703 eliminates the FD and chain rubbing, it comes with a 50/50 chance the chain will over-shift and drop on the crank arm. As to why this is, in addition to the usual Shimano over-engineering that makes pairing a FD designed for a 130mm axle on a 145mm rear axle problematic, our 13-year old daVinci cranks mounted on Phil Wood JIS bottom brackets seems to have a few millimeters of static big chain ring run-out. That run-out, when coupled with a bit of rear bottom bracket and/or frame deflection at the rear triangle under load, seems to be root cause of both the persistent chain rub as well as the over-shift.  Therefore, my hope is the more robust MegaEXO bottom brackets and different cranks will eliminate the big chain ring run-out that is causing the chain rub as well as the over-shifts.

Since these cranks were originally fitted with a Gates CarbonDrive sync belt and pulleys, and because our daVinci cranks used 34t timing rings that bolted directly to spider-less crank arms at the axle flange, over the weekend I also ordered a pair of Stronglight CT2 130BCD 39T Ceramic Teflon chain rings and two chain ring bolt sets.  Thankfully, I just happen to have a new set of FSA triple chain rings (52/39/30) and a set of triple chain ring bolts sitting around I could use with the cranks.  While I could have used the 52/42/30 FSA  chain rings that had been on our daVinci cranks, given the goal of this exercise I thought it better to use new chain rings.  In fact, I’ll also be using new chains to eliminate that part of the equation and ordered those over the weekend as well.

In terms of unintended consequences, I don’t believe there should be any.

  • Crank Arm Length: The FSA SL-K Light MegaExo tandem crankset will move me to a set of 172.5mm long crank arms, whereas the daVinci crank arms I’ve been using are 170mm.  However, my captain’s FSA Gossamer MegaExo tandem cranks on our triplet are 172.5mm and I’ve never had any issues switching back and forth between the tandem and triplet with regard to crank arm length in the eight (8) years we’ve been riding the triplet.  Debbie’s crank arm length remains unchanged at 170mm.
  • Q-Factor:  Interestingly enough, the Q-Factor on the FSA SL-K Light MegaExo tandem crankset is 158mm, which is nearly the same as it has been on our daVinci cranks paired with 108mm and 111mm front & rear bottom brackets.  And, as noted, we have a set of FSA Gossamer MegaExo tandem cranks on the triplet so, once again, we’ve never had any Q-factor related issues switching back and forth between our Calfee and the Precision triplet.
  • Bottom Bracket Design: The MegaEXO bottom brackets (BB) used on the FSA SL-K Light MegaExo tandem cranksets thread into a standard, old-school bottom bracket shell with English threading so we’re good to go there.
  • MegaEXO BB Durability:  While two of the bottom brackets that are coming with the cranks are the 7-year old ones our friends have put big miles on, there is also a new, never been used BB coming with the cranks.  That one will go on the rear bottom bracket and the best of the two used ones will get rebuilt and installed on the front, noting I have all the parts I need for a rebuild on hand.

On Tuesday, January 21st I cleaned-up  the 170mm daVinci front & rear cranks that just came off the Calfee as well as an extra pair of 175mm front cranks that I originally bought for the Calfee. I’ll hold onto those until after we’ve determined if the FSA cranks and MegaEXO bottom brackets do anything to alleviate our front shifting issues.  It’s amazing how nicely the 12-year old daVinci cranks clean-up despite all of the wear and tear.  The only crank arm that’s really showing any serious wear is the right rear crank due to the over-shift issue.

The FSA cranks arrived on Wednesday, January 22nd with the two used and one new FSA MegaEXO BB7000 bottom brackets and everything looked great.  The “used” bottom brackets actually looked and felt like they’re in very good shape with smooth-rolling bearings.  So, I’m not sure I’ll even bother with an overhaul, noting that can sometimes be trouble than it’s worth with MegaEXO bottom bracket rebuilds. Three new KMC X-10 10.93 chains also arrived on Wednesday, and the 39t Stronglight chain rings and two sets of chain ring bolts arrived on Thursday, the 23rd.

The afternoon of Friday the 24th — after spending a few hours at a friend’s house installing a set of heated grips on one of their Harley-Davidson’s — I began the crank installation project on the Calfee. I had the bottom brackets and cranks installed in short order and had the three KMC X10 10.93 chains drying after removing the factory lubricant with a solvent bath, citric degreaser rinse and final cold water rinse. However, I decided to hold off on the chain installation until the weekend as we had dinner plans.

After a 5-mile hike and lunch afterwards with friends on Saturday morning, the 25th,    I spent the latter part of the afternoon getting the drive chain right-sized and combining the other two 116 links to come up with a 158-link sync chain and then began work to dial-in the front derailleur shifting. It was interesting that the FSA spacer installation notes didn’t yield a workable solution for our tandem. I opted to call it a day once I started getting a bit frustrated so as not to create more problems while searching for a solution,

First up on my to-do list on Monday, the 27th, after reading the Wall Street Journal, was to finish sorting out the shifting issues on the tandem.  Again, I’m not sure why I’ve been having so much trouble with the front shifting. Even getting the new cranks positioned so the derailleur would consistently shift the chain between all three chain rings required setting aside the instruction and resorting to trial and error.  However, I was finally able to get smooth and predictable shifting across the full range of gear combinations by placing the two 2.5mm crank arm spacers and wavy washers on the left sides of the front & rear crank yielding nearly perfect shifting… in the work stand.  All that was left to do is to remove the chains, clean them one more time before immersing them in a hot melt paraffin and petrolatum bath — still my preferred chain lubrication method — before re-installing them on the tandem.  We had to hold out for better weather before we could see if it would shift as well when under power.

That 1st test ride finally came on Sunday, February 2nd.  It was a beautiful day and after warming up into the high 50’s and low 60’s around noon time Debbie and I headed out on the tandem for the first time in three full weeks.  We took full advantage of the day by riding our 25-mile loop, despite not a lot of riding under our belts, and it felt wonderful.  Best of all, the new-to-us FSA cranks, new chain rings and chains delivered flawless shifting: no over-shifts and no chain rub even in the 53/11 gearing.  In fact, I can’t recall when the front shifting on our Calfee tandem has performed as well, so I’m very happy with the results of my little experiment.

Just to be sure it wasn’t a fluke, we took advantage of beautiful and warm mid-60ºF temperatures on Monday, February 3rd, and headed out at 10:30am for a second 25-mile ride.  Once again, flawless shifting!  Now, to be fair, we’re still getting used to the “new look” and I”m thinking it may be time to update the graphics on our frame, something our friend Craig Calfee offered to do back in September 2018 when the frame was back at La Selva Beach for a little touch-up work. Perhaps I can secure a set of the new decals and do the update here at home.

To close out this update, here’s a little pseudo Photoshop on what our 12-year old Calfee (upper photo) would look like with a set of the new Silver Calfee decals (lower photo). I’m liking the look!

Posted in Technology & Equip. | Leave a comment

Have You Decided Which Rallies You’ll Attend in 2020?

Yes, it’s a New Year which brings with it all kinds of fresh commitments and resolutions.  If those include “attend our first tandem rally” or setting any other kind of tandem cycling event milestone, now would be a good time to figure out which of the events to put on your planning calendar.

As in the past, we continue to maintain a  TANDEM RALLIES & EVENT LISTING page.  On it you’ll find the rallies that we’re familiar with listed in chronological order with the dates and location of the rally, a brief summary of the costs when known and a direct link to the rally website or Facebook page embedded in the rally name.  Just click on that underlined rally name and you’ll be taken directly to the web-based resources that the organizers have made available.

A few of the rallies have already invited folks to begin booking hotel rooms or even opened registration.  A few others will be opening registration within the next few weeks.   Some of these events do “fill up” when they are constrained by the number of guests their hotels and/or banquet facilities can accommodate, so be mindful… if you wait until the last minute they may or may not be able to accommodate you, even if there are cancellations.

As for us, you can be assured that we will endeavor to attend as many of the rallies that we have in the past, e.g., the Alabama Tandem Weekend, Georgia Tandem Rally and Southern Tandem Rally. We’re working to resolve a conflict with the Tandems East Tandem Weekend and hope to make it all work out.  If not, perhaps the Mid Atlantic Tandem Enthusiasts (MATES) rally may make it back on our schedule.

If suffices to say, we enjoy the rally experience…

The list of 76 tandem rallies we’ve attended since 1998 + the 22 motorcycle rallies we’ve attended since 2011:

  • 1998
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Fairhope, AL
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Selma, AL
  • 1999
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Auburn, AL
    • Santana Mother’s Day Rally, Asheville, NC
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Madison, GA  (First Year)
  • 2000
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Auburn, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Madison, GA
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Callaway Gardens, GA
  • 2001
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Auburn, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Athens, GA
    • Eastern Tandem Rally, Frederick, MD
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Clemson, SC
    • North Carolina Off-Road Tandem Weekend, Asheville, NC
  • 2002
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Auburn, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Athens, GA
    • Mid-Atlanta Tandem Enthusiasts, Winchester, VA
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Diamondhead, MS
  • 2003
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Trussville, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Statesboro, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN  (First Year)
    • Midwest Tandem Rally, Dayton, OH
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Tallahassee, FL
  • 2004
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Trussville, AL
    • Southwest Tandem Rally, New Braunfels, TX
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Statesboro, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Charlotte, NC
    • North Carolina Off-Road Tandem Weekend, Tsali, NC
  • 2005
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Madison, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Kingsport, TN
  • 2006
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Americus, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Sanford, NC
  • 2007 
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, LaGrange, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Chattanooga, TN
  • 2008 
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Albany, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Bowling Green, KY
  • 2009 
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Athens, GA
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN
    • Eastern Tandem Rally, Stausburg, PA
    • Southern Tandem Rally, The Villages, FL
  • 2010
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Eufaula, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Covington, GA
    • Appalachian Off-Road Tandem Adventure, Asheville, NC
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Franklin, TN
    • Mid-Atlanta Tandem Enthusiasts, Warrenton, VA
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Florence, AL 
  • 2011
    • North Florida Invitational Weekend, St. Augustine, FL 
    • Santana Chattanooga Rally, Chattanooga, TN
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Macon, Georgia
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Franklin, TN
    • Tandems East Tandem Weekend, Pennsville, NJ
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
  • 2012
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Sylacauga, AL  (On Triplet)
    • Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Dublin, GA  (On Triplet)
    • Tennessee Tandem Rally, Knoxville, TN  (10th and Final Year)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, St. Augustine, FL (On Triplet)
    • Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
  • 2013
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Covington, GA  (On Triplet)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Cullman, AL
    • Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
  • 2014
    • Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Athens, GA  (On Triplet)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Cullman, AL
    • Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
  • 2015
    • Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Covington, GA  (On Triplet)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Richmond, VA (Hurricane Interruptus)
    • Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally / Accident)
  • 2016
    • Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Huntsville, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Statesboro, GA  (On Triplet)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Cookeville, TN
    • Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
  • 2017
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Valdosta, GA
    • Tandems East Tandem Weekend, Manheim, PA
  • 2018
    • Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Thunder Beach/Spring Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Athens, GA  (On Triplet)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Venice, FL
    • Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)  (our 20th motorcycle rally)
  • 2019
    • Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • Alabama Tandem Weekend, Pell City, AL
    • Georgia Tandem Rally, Covington, GA  (On Triplet) (our 21st GTR)
    • Tandems East Tandem Weekend, Bethlehem, PA (our 75th tandem rally)
    • Southern Tandem Rally, Greenwood, SC  (On Triplet)
    • Thunder Beach/Fall Rally, Panama City Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
  • 2020 – Tentative Plan
    • March – Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL (Motorcycle Rally)
    • April – Alabama Tandem Weekend, Dothan, AL
    • May – Tandems East Tandem Weekend, Wildwood, NJ
    • May – Georgia Tandem Rally, Tifton, GA  
    • Oct – Southern Tandem Rally, Tupolo, MS
Posted in Events, Tandem Rallies | 2 Comments

Saddle Cover Replacement: 1st Effort

Back in August it became apparent that Debbie’s 8-year old Fi’zi:k Vitesse saddle on our Calfee tandem was wearing out.  Well, to be more specific, the perforated pleather saddle cover was suffering from delamination and, as it turns out, gel material leaching through the worn-out coating on the saddle cover that was designed to function as a barrier.

I considered taking a shot at recovering the saddle with some new leather as a fix, but didn’t want to get halfway into the project and find that the saddle was not salvageable.  So, I went off in search of a new saddle which is far more challenging than it used to be since brick and mortar, local bike shops (LBS) are now far and few between and don’t stock a lot different saddles: internet commerce has pretty much killed robust inventories at the LBS.  Thankfully, and based on the success I had with the Bontrager Montrose Comp saddle I found for the Calfee when my also very-old Selle Italia ProLink saddle failed at last year’s Southern Tandem Rally in Venice, Florida, they had a couple different Bontrager saddles that looked similar in size and shape to Debbie’s Vitesse.  However, all of them would be far more firm than the worn-out gel saddles, so this was not going to be a seamless saddle change… as few ever are.

To make a long-story short, the first Bontrager saddle she tried which was a women’s specific design was the Yatra Comp (at left) which did not work well and was returned under Bontrager / Trek saddles 30-day fit guarantee.  However, the Arvada Comp (at right) while definitely less forgiving than her Fi’zi:k Vitesse provided her good support and sufficient comfort without causing any chafing.  She’s since gotten very comfortable with it and we also replaced a 7-year old Fi’zi:k Vitesse that was on the triplet as it was also starting to show signs of cover delamination.  Again, she had no issues with the saddle during our 130-miles of riding at this year’s Southern Tandem Rally.

Getting back to the subject of this blog entry, after making sure the Bontrager Arvada Comp worked-well, I began my experiment to see if I could successfully re-cover Debbie’s old saddle with new leather to give it a second life.  The project was made a bit more challenging since the Vitesse has two gel inserts incorporated into the saddle’s construction.  However, since there was nothing to lose, I pressed ahead:

  • Step #1 was removing the screw-on, plastic corner guards and stripping-off the old leather cover without doing any significant damage to either the foam foundation or the gel inserts. A few bits of foam came off with the cover which was good; however, peeling the gooey, fragile gel away from the cover was a bigger challenge and I was able to salvage most of it.
  • Step #2 was finding the right piece of leather that would be the correct weight, size and not insanely expensive to make the project feasible. Thankfully, I found a 15″ x 15″ remnant of black, 4 oz Italian cowhide leather skin for $15 that is large enough to cover two saddles.
  • Step #3 was trimming the new leather to fit the saddle, which sounds a bit easier than it is.  The old cover could be used as a guide, but you have to wait until the leather is soaked in water then stretched over the saddle and allowed to dry before you can do a final trim to fit.
  • Step #4 was soaking the leather and then stretching it over the old saddle. I elected to use my electric stapler to secure the leather to the inside lip of the saddle, much the same as you do with a motorcycle saddle.  It allows you to get a very tight pull on the leather without marring the exposed leather with spring clips that don’t hold nearly as well as the heavy-duty staples.  Note that the thick plastic saddle shell requires the highest impact setting on the stapler, otherwise the staples just fold or shoot off into space when they hit the hard plastic.
  • Step #5 was letting the wet leather dry and conform to the saddle overnight so that it could be removed and still retain the shape needed when doing the final installation with spray-on 3M 77 adhesive.  Let me also note, using thicker and more durable 4 oz leather vs. 2 oz or 3 oz also complicates things since getting a tight fit at the nose of the saddle is extremely challenging. 

At left is the Vitesse off the triplet, next to it is the one being recovered with the cover removed and gel inserts exposed. Next to that is the old worn-out cover and at right is the new piece of 4oz leather after being trimmed, soaked and allowed to conform to the saddle.

  • Step #6 was removing the staples and the now-dry cover from the saddle so the saddle could be prepped for applying the adhesive.
  • Step #7 was taping off the parts of the saddle base and rails that would not be covered with spray-on adhesive using automotive (green) painters tape around the edges then the wider, blue household painters tape.
  • Step #8 was unique to the gel saddle inserts in that I elected to cover them with plastic stretch wrap that will hopefully act as a barrier between the gel and the leather cover. Again, this is a carry over from motorcycle saddle recovering where you put a plastic membrane between the leather and the foam core to keep the foam from getting wet when the bike sits out or is ridden in wet weather.
  • Step #9 was applying the 3M 77 spray adhesive to the underside of the leather cover and to the saddle foam, plastic membrane over the gel inserts and around the outer, underside edge of the saddle.  You need to work fast with the adhesive as it begins to set-up in 30 seconds and will hold fast after 60 seconds. So, the trick is making sure your pre-formed leather is centered and aligned as you put it across the top of the saddle and then work it on to the saddle from the middle to outside edges.  The adhesive is so tacky that you can pretty much hand press the leather on the outer, underside edge and get a very good bite.  However, I still used clamps in a few spots around the nose where the leather was bunched up to make sure there was a very secure bond.  It also helped to “roll the nose edge” on a smooth, hard clean surface to give it a tight, smooth fit.
  • Step #10 was letting the adhesive dry for 30 minutes before “messing” with the saddle.
  • Step #11 was removing the tape from the underside and then trimming any excess leather from the perimeter edge.  I should note, the Vitesse has a funky, non-functional “notch” at the back that would normally require doing some cut & sew work to properly cover. I opted to just wrap it and leave a void back there on this 1st effort.
  • Step #12 was re-installing the screw-on corner guards and pressing in the Fi’si:k plug in the back of the saddle: I believe there’s a water bottle cage mount that can go into that space.
  • Step #13 was cleaning the adhesive residue off the cover that will invariably get on your hands while you’re installing the cover over the saddle.

And, here’s the final product, with the recovered saddle at left and an original at the right.

It was a very good learning experience.  Obviously, the less complex the saddle is the easier it would be to recover.  Some of our Selle Italia “TransAm” saddles with their anatomic cutouts and other features tend to be made from up to 7 pieces of leather that are stitched together, so I’m not sure if that would be something I’d want to tackle vs. a good-old Flite Saddle.

I’ll probably re-cover Debbie’s other Vitesse saddle just in case she decides she’d prefer the gel saddle she’s been riding for the past 8 years vs. the Bontrager Arvada Comp at some point as I’m sure the second one’s gel inserts are in better shape and, well, I’ve learned a few things on this first saddle that should allow me to step-up-my-game on the second one.

Posted in Technology & Equip. | 1 Comment

Preliminary 2020 Tandem Event Listings

As usual, with this year’s Southern Tandem Rally in the books I took a few minutes this morning to develop a Preliminary  Tandem Events Listing for both the Road and Off-Road Enthusiasts in the coming year.

Therefore, and in an effort to make sure the listing is both complete and accurate, I would respectfully ask any readers who are involved in organizing the various tandem events for 2020 to make sure your event(s) is included and that the links and other information is as up-to-date as you have available, recognizing final costs for registration, lodging and when registration will open-up may still be in development.  Just shoot me an Email or add a comment with the updated information to the event listing page.

Here are the direct links to the two different event lists:

If you visit these listings you’ll note there are still a few events left to go for 2019 including the Recumbent Cycle-Con Trade Show & Convention on 11-13 October at Nashville, TN; the Florida Tandem Rally, hosted by the PANTHERS, on 24-27 Oct at The Villages, FL; and for off-road tandem enthusiasts one last Self Organized Off-Road Tandem Adventure (S.O.O.R.T.A.), the Warrior Creek SOORTAon 12-14 Oct at Wilkesboro, NC.

If any of our readers happen to know of any new tandem clubs that have been formed or of previously established tandem clubs that are no longer active, please let me know about that as well.  You can find my current list of tandem clubs at the following direct link:

In closing, note that the links to these three resources can always be found just below the photo in our WordPress site’s banner.  Again, these resources were moved to this site from which is now pretty much an archive site that I do not update due to some technical difficulties with both the host site and my very old PowerMac and Adobe PageMIll 3.0 software.

As always, thank you for your readership, support and comments. They are all sincerely appreciated.

Posted in Events, Off-Road Tandems, Tandem Rallies | 3 Comments

The 2019 Southern Tandem Rally in Greenwood, South Carolina

We headed off to Greenwood, South Carolina, at noon on Thursday where we spent three nights and three days visiting with friends we only see a couple times each year and cycling with dozens of other tandem teams around rural areas with what are usually some interesting history or simply points of interest.  Such was the case in and around Greenwood.  The weather was comfortable with very warm but not oppressively hot temperatures and there was zero rain, so that was nice.  The events we attended from Thursday’s social event to Friday’s ice cream social, Saturday’s catered lunch and evening banquet as well as our a few meals on our own that we shared with our riding companion for the weekend, Miss Lisa.  Sadly, I didn’t take a lot of photos for some reason so I’m still waiting to see if I can poach a few more from others as they begin to pop up.  But, without a doubt this year’s Southern Tandem Rally was one of if not THE best, right up there with the Tallahassee STR back in 2003 and the Charlotte STR in 2004.

Again, our thanks to those who always take lots of photos and share them via Facebook, etc., as without those this would be a visually uninteresting journal entry.

Monday: Getting the Triplet Ready for STR 

My only must-do project for the day was getting our nearly 11-foot long, 3-seat tandem down from the ceiling-mounted storage hooks it rests on when it’s not being used and getting it ready to ride at next weekend’s Southern Tandem Rally (STR).

As expected, the bike was covered with a coating of white paint dust from Friday’s door painting project, so there was that to deal with.  But, more importantly, I needed to finish putting new drive chains on the bike, move two pair of pedals over from our mountain tandem, reprogram a small computer and then test ride the bike to make sure everything is still working correctly before giving it a good cleaning.  After doing all of my wrenching on the bike then tweaking the shifting and brakes to get them working smoothly the bike received a much-needed bath and is almost ready for the weekend.  The one thing I still want to do is to change out both Debbie’s and my saddles to match the ones we now have on our tandem. Both of those saddles are showing their age at this point and it’s just a good time to change them since we can still get the same saddles we’ve recently installed on our tandem.  I’ll do that tomorrow afternoon.

Wednesday: New Saddles for the Triplet & Getting The Hauler Ready

Today’s to-do list included heading over to FreeFlite bicycle’s to pick up new saddles for the triplet.  I should note, during last year’s STR in Venice, Florida, a saddle rail on our 10-year old Selle Italia saddle on our tandem failed about 5 miles from the end of the ride making for a challenging finish on Saturday.  Thankfully I found a suitable replacement at a local bike shop. However, as I pulled the triplet down from storage and got it ready for the weekend rally in South Carolina I was reminded that the saddle on it was a somewhat older version of the same saddle and likely nearing the end of its service life.  Moreover, we’d just replaced Debbie’s Fiz’ik saddle on the tandem as the 10-year old cover was worn out and the saddle on the triplet was of the same age and in need of replacement.  So, rather than tempting fate I decided it was a good time to buy replacement saddles for the triplet since the exact brand and model of Bontrager saddles we were riding on the Calfee tandem were still available.

Thursday: We Head to Carolina & Begin our 3-Day Tandem Rally

My day began at 12:30am when I found myself wide awake after getting about 4 hours of sleep.  Rather than tossing and turning and disturbing Debbie, I got up and headed into my office and fired-up my laptop to see what was going on in the world and to get a head start on Wednesday’s journal entry.  As the sun came up, I pulled our Toyota Tacoma truck out of the garage and went about getting the triplet up on top of the truck for our 3-hour drive to STR at Greenwood, South Carolina.

We left for STR around 12:30pm and had a fairly easy first hour’s drive across the top end of Atlanta on Interstate 285 and then North on Interstate 85 where we use the Express Lane with our Florida SunPass, keeping our fingers crossed it would work in Georgia as advertised. We made the last two hours of the trip on rural back highways with little to no traffic after we were out of the Atlanta metro area, which was nice.  We made one stop so Debbie could take a bio-break and we also grabbed a chicken sandwich we split since neither of us had lunch.

After checking into the Fairfield Inn we made our way over to the Mill House for the rally check-in and reception. We had a really nice time seeing all of our old friends from previous tandem rallies and ended up staying there for dinner with our friend and riding partner, Lisa, as did many of the other folks from the rally.

Sadly, I went to sleep early and found myself awake at 11:30pm.  I spent the rest of the night tossing and turning and wrestling with some lingering issues from our other interests and activities, somewhat wishing I’d have been back at home where I could have worked through the problems instead of letting a friend find his own way.

Friday:  A Visit to Abbeville and the Ice Cream Social

After the restless night we headed down the hall for breakfast at the Fairfield lobby around 7:00am where we found our friend Lisa and others.  It was 8:00am when we headed over to the ride start at the Holiday Inn Express, about a mile away.  Rather than riding the triplet over I decided we’d leave it on the truck, unload it there and then hopefully be able to put it in the tandem storage / meeting room after our ride so we’d only have to put it back up on the truck once during the visit when we headed home on Sunday.

Trinity Episcopal Church, circa 1860

We opted to ride the middle distance of 46 miles, with a special “muffin stop” about 12-miles into the ride at the town square in Abbeville, South Carolina.  I must say, Abbeville was a very beautiful place packed with all kinds of history, both in terms of architecture as well as events; from the city’s website:

Abbeville was settled in 1758 by a group French Huguenots. In 2008, Abbeville celebrated its 250th anniversary. The City was officially incorporated as a municipality within the State of South Carolina on December 20, 1832. Since then, Abbeville has experienced many exciting and turbulent events. The city played a key role during the Civil War, and that legacy remains pristinely preserved. Abbeville is known the “Birthplace and Deathbed of the Confederacy”.  On what is now known as Secession Hill, the meeting which launched the state’s secession from the Union took place on Nov. 22, 1860. Five years later in 1865, Jefferson Davis and his cabinet decided to dissolve the Confederacy at the Burt-Stark Mansion, a stately home right off from Abbeville’s Historic Court Square.

We rode into town with a group of six other tandems that were riding along at a pretty good clip for the first part of the ride.  The teams whom I remember being with us included Alan & Joanne, from Greenwood, SC, on their orange & purple Co-Motion, Mark & Char from Greer, SC, on their black & white daVinci, Grant & Susan from Ingleside, IL, on their yellow Santana, Lonnie & Carol from Anna, OH, on their white and black Calfee, Dwight & Donna from Charlotte, SC, on their Ti Santana, and Tim & Vickie from Pembroke Pines, FL, on their Tequila Sunrise Co-Motion.  Our hosts, Roger & Eve, had a nice refreshment table set up in the lovely, tree-shaded town square next to their still-standing Confederate War Monument, and a local bakery kept the table stocked with delicious bite-size muffins. From there we headed out into the more hilly section of Friday’s ride and at some point our riding companions had dropped back and then split off on a ‘short-cut’ that locals Alan & Joanne new that eliminated most of the climbing.  We encountered a nice couple from the Fox Lake area in Northeast Illinois named Grant & Susan, and also caught back up to Tim & Vickie who had rolled out of the Abbeville stop a bit ahead of us.  We only learned that our friends had taken the shortcut when we pulled into a store stop in Due West, SC, and found them already there and looking somewhat relaxed.  Due West is the home of Erskine College, founded by the Presbyterian Church in 1839.  From there we made our way back to Greenwood and the Holiday Inn Express lead by Alan & Joanne who took us on a few more detours around some road construction and then up to Hodges, a small town with a quaint little store owned by a friend.

As hoped, we were able to find a space that was long enough to park the triplet in the bike storage room at the Holiday Inn so we’d be able to leave it there instead of having to put it back on top of the truck, which was great!  We also had a chance to see our friends Ric & Marcia from Houston, TX, who were there providing support for the rally as they do for just about all of the major tandem rallies such as the Mid-West, Southeast, Missouri, Colorado, Southern and Georgia events.  They are amazing…

From the Holiday Inn Express we headed the mile back towards our hotel and stopped at the Chili’s restaurant where we had lunch at their bar.  Debbie and I split a very tasty Southwest Chicken Caesar salad, rehydrated with some frozen margaritas and our friend Lisa did nearly the same, substituting a craft beer for the maggie.  From there we headed back to the Fairfield Inn where we thought we might spend some time at the pool and relax a bit before heading out to find a place for dinner and then heading to the ice cream social at the former Federal Building which has since been converted into the Greenwood Visitor’s Center and Art Gallery.  Well, the pool was something of a bust as it was a very small indoor pool and spa in a very cold, dark space.  Not exactly what we needed, so we opted to simply rest in our room for a while before heading over to the Holiday Inn to see where anyone else might be headed for dinner.

We ended up going to Montague’s Restaurant, a diamond in the rough.  Opened back in 1985 in what was probably a newer, upscale shopping center that is now a bit distressed and anchored by a Dollar Store, Montague’s is a classic american “steak house” and bar that has the look and feel of Cheers, noting the clientele are mostly regulars who are all known by the seasoned barkeepers.  Yup, this was our kind of place and as you’d expect, we took our dinner at the bar.  Debbie and I split an amazing white and black sesame encrusted yellowfin tuna, seared and sliced and topped with a wasabi aioli and teriyaki glaze.

From there we made the short drive over to the Federal Building for the ice cream social and had a wonderful time visiting with old friends, noting this was our 19th Southern Tandem Rally since attending our first at Selma, Alabama, back in 1998. We’ve only skipped two that were held in North Carolina and cancelled on a third in Richmond, Virginia, as we knew all three would be rain-outs due to tropical storms and hurricanes that routinely pummel the Middle Eastern Seaboard during October.  It was a great way to wrap up our first day in Greenwood and the 41st Southern Tandem Rally.

In a spot of good news, while checking my Email after getting back to our room I saw where SunPass debited another $10 from my American Express card to replenish my toll account. That new activity confirmed our SunPass was, in fact, working on the Atlanta area Express Lanes so we’d be good-to-go to use the Express Lanes for the drive home if traffic began to back-up in the “free” lanes along Interstate 85 and 75.  Yes, it can add anywhere from $0.30 to $3.00 to the cost of a drive, but given that it keeps you out of stop-and-go traffic or other back-ups, it should be well worth it.

Saturday: The Siege of “96” and a Wonderful Lunch & Banquet

Sadly, it was another restless night for me and I’ll be darned if I know why.  Thankfully, I stayed in bed and rested instead of getting up and killing time on my laptop so while I didn’t feel like I’d gotten enough sleep, I did feel rested when we finally got up and headed to breakfast at 7:00am.

Many of our riding South Carolina riding companions for the weekend.

It was 8:00pm when we met Lisa and drove the mile over to the Holiday Inn Express for the start of today’s ride where the historic highlight was a stop at the National Historic Site at the city of “Ninety-Six” where the British Army had established a fort in 1781 during the Revolutionary War.  All three ride options would visit Ninety-Six and we originally planned to ride the 59-mile route, but were leaning towards the shorter 47-mile route since that’s what the majority of our riding companions would be doing.   In addition the folks who were generally riding with us on Friday, we also had Richard & Karen from Simpsonville, SC, on their Ti tandem and Larry & Jennifer from from Moore, SC, on their white Cannondale and a few other couples whose names escape me.

Anyway, it was wonderful just driving over to the Holiday Inn Express and then pulling our triplet out of the bike storage room.  After the usual pre-ride activities and riders meeting we rolled-out and about 18 miles and an hour later we arrived at the National Park.

Sadly, we’ve still not learned to stop and smell the roses on tandem rallies; instead, we go out for a brisk-paced ride and minimize the time lost during the ride so that we can reach our lunch stop or whatever the final destination might be as soon as possible. In doing so, we miss out on a lot.. but we’re hardly alone in this.  So, when we arrived at the National Park it became very clear we would have had to dedicate about an hour of our time to properly tour the actual revolutionary groundworks that are considered to be the best preserved in the country.  So, the stop essentially became a restroom break at the park facilities adjacent to the parking lot and my “tour” ended up being a virtual one I took on line after the ride; our loss to be sure.

Anyway, here’s a brief history about the “Star Fort” that was built during late 1780 and early 1781 by Loyalists and their slaves from South Carolina and the short but failed siege by Patriot forces under the command of General Nathaniel Greene that took place in late May and June of 1781 I pulled from Wikipedia:

The British Army’s “southern strategy” for winning the American Revolutionary War, which had been successful in taking Charleston and winning submission of much of South Carolina and Georgia, hit a stumbling block in March 1781, after General Lord Cornwallis defeated Continental Army General Nathanael Greene at the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in Greensboro, North Carolina. Cornwallis had suffered significant casualties and subsequently moved his army to Wilmington, North Carolina. Greene, whose army was still largely intact after that battle, took advantage of Cornwallis’ move to march into South Carolina and begin operations to eliminate the British from that state.

The Siege of Ninety Six was a siege in western South Carolina late in the American Revolutionary War. From May 22 to June 18, 1781, Continental Army Major General Nathanael Greene led 1,000 troops in a siege against the 550 Loyalists in the fortified village of Ninety Six, South Carolina. The 28-day siege centered on an earthen fortification known as Star Fort. Despite having more troops, Greene was unsuccessful in taking the town, and was forced to lift the siege when Lord Rawdon approached from Charleston with British troops.

The area is now protected as Ninety Six National Historic Site and was designated a National Historic Landmark. The surviving Loyalists were later relocated by the Crown and granted land in Nova Scotia, where they named their township Rawdon to commemorate their rescuer.

An artists concept of the original Star Fort and what remains of the Earth Works today.

From the National Park we rode another 14-miles to where STR Co-Host Roger had a refreshment stop set up alongside the road where our group took a short break before knocking out another 12-miles to put us at the buffet cold-cut lunch in downtown Greenville.  The pavillion was perfect for a group of our size and the city had set up enough tables and chairs such that none of the 170 or so folks at the rally had to go looking for a seat, noting that not everyone was there at the same time given the different ride lengths.  The food was wonderful and fresh and hit the spot for a warm, Saturday afternoon.  From lunch we had just a 3-mile ride back to the Holiday Inn Express where, once again, we were able to store the triplet instead of hauling it back to our own hotel on top of the truck.

As for our afternoon, we ran back over to our hotel to get into our swimsuits and returned to the Holiday Inn Express as it had a lovely outdoor pool that we, Lisa and a few other folks — Mark & Char, Wayne B. from Toccoa, as well as Dan & Dolores from Charlotte — took advantage of for a good hour or two.  Frankly, we were surprised there weren’t more folks out there but, then again, tandem rallies draw a bit of an older crowd noting that we’re still riding with some of the same folks whom we met back in 1998 when we were the “kids” in our late 30’s and early 40’s.

After getting our fill of the pool we headed back to the Fairfield Inn and got ready for the Saturday night banquet at the Sundance Gallery, a two-story brick commercial building built in 1901 that has been completely refurbished and turned into a two-story special event building and art gallery where the owner, Jon Holloway, displays some of his photography.  Our hosts provided beer, wine and soft drinks downstairs for the social hour and then we moved upstairs for the banquet.  Everything was simply spectacular, from the space to the meal and atmosphere.  Our threesome sat with our friends Bob & Jan from the Villages, FL and I believe it was Roy & Nancy from Gastonia, NC and Ray & Nancy from Dunedin, FL; again, just a great time.

Sunday:  A Ride To Promised Land & Returning Home to our Sanctuary

After yet another sleepless night and hotel lobby breakfast, we headed over to the Holiday Inn Express to begin our 3rd day on the triplet.  Once again, having the triplet stored in the bike room made the logistics a lot easier and you can rest assured that I won’t dilly-dally when registration for future tandem rallies open such that we end up in an overflow hotel instead of the host hotel.

After the usual pre-ride socializing and announcements we headed off the longer of the two ride route options, a 33-mile ride to “Promised Land” an incorporated city of just over 500 citizens.  Again, a little background on the unusual name seemed to be called for so a quick search on the internet yielded the following:

Located just off S.C. Highway 10 south of Greenwood, this rural African American community was created by freed slaves in the early 1870s. Before Promised Land, the 2,742-acre tract of land belonged to the estate of Samuel Marshall, a white plantation owner. Marshall’s heirs sold the land to the South Carolina Land Commission in 1869 at a rate of $10 per acre. The commission divided the property into fifty lots of approximately fifty acres each and then sold them to freed African Americans. Eleven families purchased lots in Promised Land in 1870; by 1872 some forty-eight families resided in the community. The name derived from their “promise” to pay the commission for the land. The sale of the Marshall property gave blacks in the upstate a rare opportunity to acquire land, which to most symbolized the essence of freedom in the post–Civil War years. Descendents of these original purchasers occupied the land continually throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.

It was a spirited ride with one optional stop at a purportedly haunted home called the Rock House, built in 1922 by one Thomas Tolbert.

The small, but massive-looking four-room house with it’s 18″ thick walls and floors was built entirely of stone and concrete such that it would not burn, noting two of his family’s former homes were destroyed by arson and a fire of unknown origins.  So, he decided to build his home entirely of fire-resistant materials where all of the bachelor’s family keepsakes could be kept and even put the kitchen to a separate wooden structure behind the home. It was a simple structure with two rooms downstairs — a livingroom and dining room? — and two bedrooms upstairs that were also separated by a hallway. To get from the 1st to the 2nd floor there was a circular steel staircase in the middle of the hallway.  Interestingly, he chose to live in the cabin with the kitchen instead of the house.  He died in 1940 at 72-years of age after drinking his daily, afternoon eggnog that had been made with bad whiskey.  His younger brother — who was also sickened by the fatal eggnog — was ceded ownership of the home but never lived there.  When he died and left the property to his son in 1946… once again, the home was left vacant with all of it’s furnishings.  Over time, vandals and other trespassers would go to the house for illicit adventures and by the 1960’s when family members visited the house they found the interior in disrepair with the steel circular staircase propped against an outside wall which eventually disappeared.  The home and surrounding property which still belongs to the family has continued to fall into ruin ever since.

We should have probably stopped and spent time at the house just to give Debbie some much needed time off the bike, noting we were on our 3rd day of riding with an average speed of 18 to 19 mph for the 120-miles ridden thus far.  Yes, we were definitely pushing a hard pace given our average riding speeds our our solo rides from the house are typically around 16 mph.  Anyway, we pressed on and a few miles later got a short break at a small rail yard where a yard engine was shifting cars around and had the road blocked for a good 5 to 1o minutes. Once we were rolling again I backed way off on our pace and let our riding companions as well as the really fast riders who we’d hooked up with after their break at the Rock House ride on ahead of us.  Again, a great ride but one where we may have been riding a bit too hard and pulling a bit too long a few times that eventually took its toll when we didn’t get off the bike for a break at the 20-mile point.

After rolling into the Holiday Inn Express I quickly got the triplet on top of the Tacoma for the 3-hour drive home and then we headed off to find our hosts and friends so we could thank them and say our goodbyes.  After a quick trip back to the Fairfield and saying our goodbyes to Lisa, we grabbed a shower, checked-out and made a stop for lunch back at Chili’s… yes, it was that same Southwest Grilled Chicken Caesar.

We hit the road just before noon and the drive home was relatively uneventful, other than running into a bit of traffic that forced us off the rural highways and onto Interstate 85 far sooner than planned where we also ran into traffic at a construction site.  Sadly, this was well outside the Atlanta metro area so there wans’t an Express Lane option just yet.  However, having learned to use the “slow lane” when there are traffic back-ups with an occasional jump to the fast lane, we were able to keep moving through the back-ups and were only delayed about 6 minutes, all told.  However, as we got closer to Atlanta the Express Lanes became our savior as we bypassed what would have easily been a 10 to 15-minute back-up on Interstate 85 and had an effortless transition off of the Interstate 275 “top end perimeter” to Interstate 75 once again using the Express Lane to bypass the 1.5-mile back-up in the two normal transition lanes.  Frankly, we didn’t really need the Express Lanes after the Interstate transitions, but there’s just no easy way to get back on Interstate 75 once you’re on the Express Lane as the exits put you out on secondary roads that are often times a mile or so from the nearest interstate on-ramp.   But I digress…  Bottom Line: The Express Lanes are really nice and got me home with a lot less stress than I would have otherwise had on the Interstates today!

We arrived back at home at 3:15pm and began the process of cleaning-up and putting away:

  • The cycling clothes all needed to be laundered, that’s three sets of everything: shorts, jerseys, socks, gloves, his bandana and her sports-bra.
  • The triplet had to come off the truck, get cleaned and then put back up on the storage hooks where it will likely hang until next May and the 22nd Georgia Tandem Rally at Tifton, Georgia, about 3 hours south of home.
  • The bike racks needed to come off the truck and be put back in storage as well.
  • The tool box, spare parts boxes and cordless drill as well as my nifty new step ladder all had to be brought in and put back in their respective places.
  • The cycling computers/GPS units all needed to be cleaned and re-charged, those go back on the tandem along with the seat back and taillights which also came off the triplet before it when up on top of the Tacoma for the drive home.
  • The interior of the truck needed to be cleaned and the exterior washed before it got parked back in the garage, noting it goes into the shop for it’s 25,000 mile service and yet another attempt to get a drivetrain vibration diagnosed and repaired.
  • The yard and plants were all in dire need of water as it hasn’t rained in 8 days and our last rain was only a quarter of an inch, so there was that to attend to.

Rather than heading out to eat or pick up groceries we did something we haven’t done at this house in a couple years: we ordered a pizza from Papa John’s for dinner.  It was good and it allowed us to sit down and relax for the rest of the evening.

Posted in Events, Tandem Folks, Tandem Rallies | 2 Comments

S.O.O.R.T.A. Event Outlook

Our friends and the instigators behind the Self-Organized Off-Road Tandem Adventure (S.O.O.R.T.A.) events,  Chris and Monica Judd, passed along some reminders for upcoming gatherings.  You can also get plugged-in via the S.O.O.R.T.A. Facebook Group  and via Instagram if that’s your thing.

Stowe Vermont Labor Day Weekend
Aug 30-Sept 2, 2019

Hosted by: Al and Sandy Smith

There are fast, flowy and technical trails. There will be rocks, roots and you will climb. BUT they are fun and the area is beautiful. This event will be two weeks before ETOR (you don’t want to miss that).  Learn more

ETOR 2019 Kingdom Trails, East Burke, VT
Sept 12-15, 2019

Hosted by: Brenda & Larry Isherwood

ETOR 2019 will be at Kingdom Trails in East Burke, VT with the host lodging at Moose River Campground in nearby St. Johnsbury, VT.  Learn more

Warrior Creek SOORTA, Wilkesboro, NC
Oct 12 – 14 2019

Hosted by: Eric & Kim Marland and Carl & Ayako Peltzer

Come ride Warrior Creek in NC! Tandem fun on the trails around the Kerr Scott Reservoir and in nearby Wilkesboro. Trails include beginner and advanced terrain and have lots of berms.  Learn more

SOORTA TdF 2020, Gainesville, FL
Jan 10-12, 2020

Hosted by: Kris and Andrea Smith

Come join us in Alachua, Florida next January for the 2020 Tour de Felasco! We usually have a good turnout of tandems, so let’s get a campsite and turn it into a SOORTA event! Registration for the Tour opens October 1st 2019.  Learn more

SOORTA Ididaride 2020, White Springs, FL
Jan 24-25, 2020

Hosted by: Chris and Monica Judd

Lets SOORTA the SBA Ididaride 50 mile event once again!  Learn more

4th Annual SOORTA Santos, Ocala, FL
Feb 28 – March 1, 2020

Hosted by: Chris and Monica Judd & Sponsored by MTB Tandems, Inc.,

We’re happy to announce the dates and camping for SOORTA Santos 2020, Feb 27th – March 1st. As of Aug 11th 2019, 5 RV campsites remain and still plenty of tent camping.  Learn more

Wheels and Waterfalls, DuPont State Forest, NC
May 7 – 10, 2020

Hosted by: Kelly Rahn and Scott Wood

We will ride at DuPont State Recreational Forest! They have well-marked trails for all skill levels, most of which are between a half-mile and one mile in length resulting in an infinite number of potential loops.  Learn more

Posted in Events, Off-Road Tandems, Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

The 2019 Tandems East Tandem Weekend


July has once again become a busy travel month for us, as it was last year.  Having just returned from our annual motorcycle trip down to Key West, Florida, last Sunday we began the week by taking care of things that needed to be done before we headed off to Pennsylvania on Wednesday morning for yet another 7-day trip that included a 3-day stay in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, for the 2019 Tandems East Tandem Weekend.  We typically try to find a tandem cycling rally or event in late spring or early summer that’s not too far from Reading, PA, so we can combine a family visit with the event.  Tandems East’s Tandem Weekends have been “fitting the bill” quite nicely since we attended our 1st Tandem Weekend back in July of 2011.

So, it was on Wednesday, July 11th that we made the 780-mile drive to Pennsylvania which, thankfully, was a fairly easy drive without any major on-road delays.  We had a great visit with my folks on Wednesday night and Thursday before heading an hour East to Bethlehem, PA, for the 3-day Tandems East Tandem Weekend on July 12-14, where the Springhill Suites was home base.  We had a great time riding and visiting with friends on Friday and Saturday, but opted to skip Sunday’s ride so we could get back to my folks home and visit with my uncle and aunt who had popped-in for a visit over the weekend.  We’d not seen them in over a year so we were anxious to have that time together.  Alas, that is one of the risks when you combine pleasure trips with family visits and, well, we love our friends but family always takes priority… and good friends get that.

Getting Ready for Our Trip

On Tuesday July 10th, ahead of our drive to Pennsylvania on Wednesday, I began to get things together.  In that we were combining a visit with my folks with the Tandems East Tandem Weekend (TETW) I needed to take along a few extra hand tools for any projects my mother might come up with during the visit and she specifically asked me bring along my chainsaw; I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve taken a chainsaw to a road cycling event!   Next up was getting my home-made tandem transportation fixture down and the tandem loaded on to the fixture so it could go in the back of the truck.  There were, of course, my cycling toolbox, spare parts bag and the other “equipment” I like to take along when we go to cycling events so I can be self-sufficient if we have a problem with our own tandem, and offer up help to other folks who have minor issues.  It’s a lot more stuff to haul around, but that’s one of the reasons I have a truck with a full-length bed.  So, with everything staged and ready to go into the truck, I was able to get on with my day… packing our riding apparel and street clothes for the 7-day trip would wait until the afternoon.

Wednesday: The Drive to Pennsylvania

I was able to get about 2 hours of sleep between 11:00pm and 1:00am and then did my best to stay in bed in the hope I’d drift in and out of at least a light sleep… but no such luck. Around 5:00am Debbie’s alarm went off ending my failed attempt at getting sleep.

After a little breakfast and putting our last bags of street clothes in the truck we were out of the driveway and on the road at 6:00am, per plan.  On the bright side, it was a very easy drive with light traffic all the way into Pennsylvania, which is where we encountered our first heavy traffic.  That’s not to say the drive north on Interstate 81 wasn’t without its issues, as it’s still a major artery for over-the-road trucking and, God love the truckers, they’re doing their best to get where they’ve got to be.  As a motorist, I get that we’re truly a lower-priority in the big scheme of things, but it does get frustrating when you see trucks stacked-up side-by-side on a steep grade trying to pass each other where even the trucks in the passing lane aren’t able to run at the speed limit unless they’re running empty loads.  Cest la Vie.

We arrived at my folks home in Bernville, PA, around 5:40pm, got ourselves unpacked and settled-in and then sat down for a lovely dinner. As you might image, I was fading a bit given the long drive on very little sleep but did manage to stay awake until 11:00pm in the hopes going to bed at a semi-normal time would afford me a full-night’s rest.

Thursday:  A Day with my Folks & a Few Small Projects

We both slept really well overnight and after taking care of my daily home finance activities and updating my various blogs and journals, I turned my attention to a “to do” list I always ask my mother to work up so that I’ll have things to keep me busy during our visit. I’m just not one to sit still for more than an hour or so:

  • Attending to an ailing, fairly new Singer Featherweight sewing machine.
  • Recommending a repair method for six rotting boards on the upper front porch.
  • Getting measurements to replace a rotted side garage door threshold.
  • Taking care of getting a problematic window screen.
  • Dealing with a millipede problem.
  • Beginning a Window 10 update on my folks laptop.
  • Refining the balance of  my to-do list with tree removal, tree trimming, bench & pergola rebuilding, etc. for when we finished our tandem weekend and returned for a few days.

We had heavy rain all afternoon which gave me time to do some homework on the TETW as well as downloading the GPS ride routes to my laptop and, in turn, uploading them to our cycling computers.  We had a delicious dinner in and then a quiet night at the house.

Friday:  Day 1 of the Tandems East Tandem Weekend: Velodrome Night

I was happy to see the Windows 10 update on my parent’s laptop computer had finished running so I could reboot and get the final updates taken care. After that I downloaded an updated the “cleaner” program they already had on their computer to clean out the “junk” that Windows 10 found so their computer would run as efficiently as possible.

It was around 10:45am when we had the truck packed up again and headed off to the Tandem East Tandem Weekend (TETW) in Bethlehem, PA, and it was a very easy, hour-long drive.  Once there we were able to check-in to our hotel room, get registered for the event and headed off to find a Subway for lunch at the nearby Promenade Shopping Center.  Well, we struck out on the Subway but did find a really bar & grille called ‘Bar Louie” where we grabbed a delicious burger and salad for lunch.

It was around 1:00pm when we got dressed in our cycling gear and headed off to the Velodrome over in Trexlertown, aka., the Lehigh Valley Preferred Cycling Center.  The plan for the afternoon was to do a 27-mile ride from the velodrome, change clothes, grab dinner and then return to the velodrome by 6:30pm for the 7:00pm track racing, to include the “Tandemonimum,” the annual track tandem event with which the TETW was scheduled to coincide.  The route meandered out of the lightly urbanized area surrounding the velodrome, through suburban neighborhoods and then into more rural and then eventually farm lands.  I’m not sure we were ever riding on a “flat road” for more than an 1/8th of a mile, which is fine by us: we truly enjoy rolling terrain with a few climbs.  However, given the ride didn’t start until 2:30pm on a sunny afternoon, it was a bit on the warm side and we had a steady headwind as we rode east. Quite frankly, I missed that steady breeze once it became a tailwind: it’s truly a mixed blessing.

I’m not sure what it is about the Tandem East Weekends, but I always seem to make wrong turns whenever I end up out on the front of a group.  In the past it was because we weren’t really good about keeping up with the cue sheet so this year I figured I’d nailed it by downloading the ride into my Garmin Edge 705.  Well, son-of-a-gun, for some reason my Garmin wanted to make we ride the route backwards by sending me the wrong way at three different intersections where the out bound route over laid the return route. Thankfully, we didn’t pull other riders along with us, but those miscues did cause us to lose the wheels of the teams we were trying to follow and put us in no-mans land for a while.  While we considered trying to bridge back up to the teams we’d been trying to pace, I had to be mindful that Debbie is still getting sorted-out on some new medications for her hereditary hypertension that has given rise to elevated blood pressure and endurance issues which has us riding a more moderate pace on many rides.  Thankfully, we ended up riding the back-half of the ride with Bill and Ann from Ontario, Canada, who are long-time friends of our hosts, Mel & Barbara Kornbluh, and folks whom we’ve met at previous TETWs.  And, honestly, that’s one of the things we’ve come to appreciate about the TETWs: we always meet the most friendly and interesting folks when we attend!

We finished early enough that we were able to make the 20-minute drive back to our hotel where we grabbed a shower and change of clothes before heading back to the velodrome for the Friday night races.  We decided dinner could wait until the “elegant hour” as neither of us were feeling all that hungry after our afternoon ride.

We had a lovely time visiting with a variety of new and old friends in the parking lot outside the velodrome, some of whom we knew by reputation such as the folks who are now running Pennywise Cycle Tours — Steve & Karen — as well as some folks who have followed my writing at Tandem@Hobbes, on my blogs and elsewhere.  Just wonderful folks and a joy to be around.  As for the races, it was a great evening with a full slate of both single bike and tandem track racing.  Sadly, there was a crash during the final men’s “gold medal” race.  The Affinity Team riding the 25-year old, Team EDS Corima Composite tandem with a checkered history crashed hard when the sync chain broke and wrapped itself around the 4-bladed Corima front wheel which, in turn, collapsed the composite front fork.  The captain and stoker both hit the track hard and we’re pretty sure the stoker ended up being transported to the local hospital with what we suspect was a collar bone injury.  Not the finish we or anyone else wanted to see.

As the medic was walking the stoker off the track, we decided it would be a good time to head out and find some dinner. We returned to Bar Louie around 9:30pm where we split a chicken club sandwich and fries, then retired to our hotel room and called it a night as Debbie was exhausted by the ride in the heat of the day.

Saturday: Great Day with Friends at TETW

Having gotten to bed relatively early for us, we both slept well and were up at 6:00am for breakfast.  As expected, the hotel’s lounge area was packed with cyclists when we came down at 6:20am.  Thankfully, the hotel staff was on the ball and had plenty of food out so we were able to make our way through the serving line quickly and finished up breakfast with more than enough time to make the 8:00am remote start rider’s meeting that was about a 15-minute drive from the hotel.

I should note, our hosts Mel & Barbara Kornbluh and their local route planners had to rework the Saturday ride routes and lunch location as recent rains washed out several bridges as well as the park where lunch was going to be held.  So, instead of heading out for a 55-mile ride from the hotel, all 65 teams attending TETW left from the Lutheran Church of the Holy Spirit parking lot in Emmaus, PA.

It was a somewhat disjointed start as the 8:00am riders meeting at the church never materialized, so individual riders and smaller groups began heading off between 8:00am and the 8:30am official “start time” to include us when we saw a semi-large group begin to leave.

We sat in the pack for the ride through Emmaus but as we made our way out of town and began to hit some of the hills we migrated towards the front of the group and ended up following two of the stronger couples at the event.  We did our best to stay with them for a few miles but with Debbie’s BP spiking a bit we fell back and rode at a more moderate tempo, arriving a few minutes behind the other two teams for the “cookie stop” about 14-miles into the ride.  The cookie stop iswhere Barbara Kornbluh sets up several tables filled with all kinds of delicious baked goods she prepares at home ahead of the TETW and it is an amazing spread, replete with a wide variety of soft drinks, water and juices.

While we were at the cookie stop we spent some time chatting with our friends Tom & Cheryl whom we’d met at the Santana Chattanooga Tandem Rally way back in May 2011.  We’ve stayed in touch ever since and met up a few times at these TETWs.  We ended up riding the balance of the 38-mile Saturday ride with Tom & Cheryl and their friends Dennis & Jodie, which was a true delight.  We all rode at about the same pace so it was a good ride where no one was running off and pushing the tempo, which gave us the time and energy to carry on a nice dialog during our ride through the lovely outskirts of the Lehigh Valley.

For us, the real gems on this ride were Hassendahl Road along the Hassen Creek, a lovely tree-covered road that meandered along the edge of a ridge line.  It was one of those roads that we just didn’t want to end, somewhat reminiscent of River Road near Townsend, Tennessee, which was always a feature of the Tennessee Tandem Rally’s Friday ride. The second gem was riding around the Lehigh Parkway, a large public park along the Little Lehigh River in Allentown. The ride around the Parkway included some limited access roads frequented by walkers, runners and cyclists once again under a lovely canopy of trees. We finished the ride as we started, riding through central Emmaus, PA, and ended up being some of the first teams back at the church where the delicious catered lunch was being served in the lower parking lot.

The following is a collection of photos, a couple of which I took but the vast majority of which were taken by Cheryl, which is why she and Tom are missing from most of them.

After running an errand in Allentown and then relaxing a bit in the afternoon, we made our way over to the Allentown Brew Yard in downtown Allentown where the TETW banquet was to be held beginning at 6:00pm. We arrived an hour early with Cheryl, Tom, Dennis & Jodie so we could enjoy a cocktail at the main bar and had a delightful time with the very attentive barkeepers.  It was around 6:15pm when we made our way to the 5th floor of the Brew Yard where the TETW banquet was being held.  We had a lovely time visiting with our table mates and I had a chance to say hello to John Schubert, a long-time internet friend from my days on Tandem@Hobbes who I’d shared many written posts with but had never had a chance to meet in person: it was a delight!

Sadly, the folks at the Brew Yard really didn’t have themselves staffed properly to serve 130 people in a timely manner with just a single buffet line and one person serving all of the food in that line.  It was around 7:30pm when we decided to call an audible, quietly excused ourselves and made our way back to Bar Louie for dinner.  We felt bad for Mel & Barbara as neither the meal nor the service provided at the Brew Yard had been up to their expectations, coming on the heels of all the weather-related, last-minute changes in plans that they’d been working through since arriving on Friday.

However, the really good news coming out of the post dinner announcements is that the 2020 Tandems East Tandem Weekend will be held in Cape May, New Jersey in early May.  So, we’ll have that to look forward to and will gladly skip our spring motorcycle rally in Panama City Beach which is held on the same weekend to make our way back north to Cape May.

Sunday: Skipped Day 3’s Ride so we could Spend More Time with Family

Once again, the Springhill Suites delivered a very comfortable night’s rest.  However, even though we were awake in plenty of time to grab breakfast and could have made the 8:00am start for Sunday’s 23-mile ride from the hotel parking lot, I remained mindful that Debbie’s blood pressure had been a bit high after both Friday and Saturday’s ride and had not yet dropped to where we’d like it to be. So, with that in mind, we decided we’d rather relax, have breakfast after the riders had departed and then make an early departure for our return trip to my parents home about an hour away in Bernville, PA.  Moreover, since my uncle and aunt had decided to pop-in and we hadn’t visited with them in a very long time, there was an added incentive to get back to Bernville a bit earlier.

While having breakfast at the Springhill Suites, we had a very nice chat with Dave & Janet whom we’d met during our first TETW  back in July 2011 at Pennsville, New Jersey.  They had gone out very early and already finished the 23-mile ride. There was another couple whom we chatted with who, like us, opted to pass on today’s ride so they could get an early start on their 5-hour drive home.  After packing up and checking out of the hotel we ran into Cheryl & Tom in front of the hotel and were able to say goodbye to them and told them to give our warm regards to Dennis & Jodie and ended up sharing a few notes with our hosts, Mel & Barbara, as we were driving back to Bernville.

Once again, and despite the challenges associated with having to replan their Saturday and Sunday rides as well as lunch on Saturday, Mel & Barbara pulled-off a 1st class tandem event.  The host hotel was lovely and had an outstanding staff, the routes we rode were enjoyable and well-suited to tandems, the night at the velodrome was a special treat to be sure and it was truly a pleasure to visit with all of the wonderful folks who attend the Tandems East weekend each year.  As noted, we’ll definitely continue to put this event on our annual planning calendar to coincide with one of our three to four trips a year to visit my folks in lovely Berks County, PA.


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Wobbly Wheels on the Dean Castanza

Update: I was wrong, it wasn’t the wheels… it was the fork.  You can find the updated details in a new entry at this link: The Dean Castanza Gets A New Fork / Loses The Wobbles

My Ti Dean Castanza spent a lot of time sitting upstairs in the exercise room as a stationary / roller trainer bike after I acquired my carbon Calfee Tetra Pro way back in 2007.  As noted in a more recent blog entry, I put it back on the road last fall and after some back-to-back rides with Calfee and my also recently resurrected SL steel Erickson the Dean emerged as the more enjoyable bike to ride.  The Calfee was by far the most comfortable, but there was just something “fun” about riding the Dean.  However, by the end of December I was detecting a bit of front end instability with the bike, especially when pressed hard into fast downhill corners.

After a couple solo rides over the past two weeks while Debbie was using her energies to brush up her swimming skills at the local YCMA pool 4-nights a week and really didn’t have the energy to get out on the tandem at 9:00am I decided to do some further investigating into the Dean’s wobbly front end.  My guess was it was either the decade old 20h Mavic Cosmic Elite wheelset or the Profile BRC aluminum and composite fork.  It was a no-brainer to test the wheels first since all I had to do was install the front wheel off the Calfee which uses a conventional 32h component wheelset with Campy Record hubs laced to Mavic Open Pro rims and go for a ride. Wow, what a difference that made!

Edit: Or, so I thought at the time, noting I had become leary of “go fast wheels” over the years. Let’s call it the placebo effect of assuming your prejudices were correct.

The wobbles were significantly reduced, noting I was still using the Mavic Cosmic Elite on the rear of the bike.  So, the next time I ride the Dean I will likely use both the front & rear Campy/Open Pro wheels from the Calfee.  If that yield the added stability I’d expect to get from the Dean without diminishing the fun-factor of the ride quality it exhibited with the Mavic Cosmic Elite wheels I’ll be in good shape: I’ll just keep swapping the Campy/Open Pros back and forth between the Calfee and Dean going forward and put the Cosmic Elites in cold storage along with the Topolino AX3.0T wheelset that failed after a few seasons on the Calfee tandem.

Edit: Well, when I took that 2nd ride with the full set of conventional wheels on the Dean, the placebo effect had worn off, mostly because it was a longer ride with the more challenging fast corners and descents; nope… it wasn’t the wheels.  It was the fork.

Edit: The following is proof of the aforementioned prejudice… or bias, if you prefer.  And, yes… in August 2020 I ended up buying that 2nd set of Campy Eurus wheels.  They’ve continued to perform flawlessly on Debbie’s bike and after pulling those and the new ones a part for service, the internals are still “like new” and neither set are out of true or showing signs of any spoke tension issues.

I guess the take away here is further reinforcement of my belief that conventional wheelsets remain “the best” wheels for daily riding, bar none.  None of the “go-fast” or integrated wheelsets we’ve owned and used on our single and tandem bikes have been anywhere nearly reliable as wheels that use tried and true hubs laced to tried and true rims with a reasonable number of tried and true spokes of sufficient number and strength.. with just one exception.  I have a set of 10-year old Campy G3 Eurus wheels that I rode for a couple years before putting them on Debbie’s Calfee Luna Pro.  She’s easily logged over 15k miles on that bike over the past 8 years and they remain perfectly true with no signs of any unusual wear, e.g., rim cracks, etc.   Perhaps I need to go and find another set of those?!  No, no… it’s old-school conventional wheels for us going forward.

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Triplet’s Are Tough on Drivetrain Components

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our 21st Georgia Tandem Rally

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

Thursday:  Loading Up & Get-Away-Day

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

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

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

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

Friday:  Remote Start from Social Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday:  The Biscuits in Jersey Ride

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: A Short Ride & The Return Home

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

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

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

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

Posted in Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday:  Rally in the Valley is a Rain Out

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

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

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

Posted in Events, Tandem Folks | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Getting Ready for ATW:

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

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

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

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

Friday:  Alabama Tandem Weekend at Pell City, Alabama

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday: Best Laid Plans & Calling an Audible

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

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

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

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

Posted in Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted in Bloggishnish, Technology & Equip. | 2 Comments

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

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

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


Posted in Off-Road Tandems | Leave a comment

Gearing-Up For Roof Topping the Triplet on the Tacoma

Why Another Truck?

Just to be clear, the only reason I’ve owned trucks instead of cars is because they either towed my Hobie Cat sailboats around and gave me a place to sleep at regattas, or carried my bicycles and tandems far-more effectively than any other vehicle I could have owned while also hauling around a lot of other stuff when called upon.  Now, it made a lot more sense when I still had 4wd trucks as they would come in handy when I hauled my sailboat across the beach in California, went skiing in the mountains, or had to deal with snow here in Georgia or when visiting family in Pennsylvania.  All told, we’ve had six (5) trucks since 1985:

  • 1985 Mazda B2000 2WD bought new
  • 1989 Toyota SR5 V-6 Extra-Cab 4WD bought new
  • 1995 Toyota V-6 4Runner Limited 4WD bought new
  • 1998 Chevrolet Suburban K1500LT 4WD bought used
  • 2002 Chevrolet Suburban K1500 Z71 4WD bought used
  • 2006 Toyota SR5 V8 Tundra Double Cab 2WD bought new

In a perfect world, I would have preferred to have a sport wagon or an estate wagon because I’ve always enjoyed smaller vehicles and vehicles that handled well and were a bit more fuel-efficient.  The 4Runner came close to being that ideal vehicle, but I will confess I was always smitten by the Subaru Outback before it got upsized from a Crossover to a small SUV and the Mercedes E55 and E63 Estate Wagons, a couple of supercharged V8 grocery haulers had more power and speed than most Corvettes.  But, roof-topping a tandem was never something I liked to do, so having a truck big enough to swallow a tandem became the norm.

Why The Tacoma?

So, from the outset as we looked to replace our 2006 Toyota Tundra with something a bit newer and more reliable, it was pretty clear it would be a truck.  Having looked at all of the full-size trucks, we found them to be just a bit bigger than they needed to be. Even the midsize trucks weren’t all that much smaller than our Tundra.  But, what all of the trucks lacked was a full-size bed that could swallow our somewhat longer than normal Calfee tandem without having to remove both the front & rear wheels.  Moreover, whatever we bought would also need to roof-top our 3-seat tandem (aka, the triplet).  And, unlike the Tundra, the next truck would need to have 4WD.  It’s not something I need all that often, but when you do need it there’s just no substitute. There were far too many winter storms where our heavy 2WD Tundra just couldn’t get us out of our iced over hill in the community while folks with 4WD and AWD trucks and cars had no problem.  So, a 4WD mid-size truck with a crew cab and bed large enough to carry the tandem inside or the triplet on the roof was my target vehicle.

And, it didn’t hurt to know our son Wesley, who has owned several trucks since his 1st one, a 2006 Tundra (it was his truck that caused me to get our Tundra shortly thereafter), including the Toyota, Chevrolet, GMC and Ford said the truck he liked the most out of all of them was his Tacoma Crew Cab. So, having considered all of our options, a crew cab, long-bed Tacoma began to seem like it would be our best bet, despite missing the mark by a few inches on carrying the tandem in the bed with the rear wheel still attached.

The need to remove both wheels wasn’t a big deal, as we had the same issue when we bought the Erickson tandem back in 1998 and I still had my 1989 Toyota Extra-Cab pick-up, back when Toyota only had one truck and didn’t need a name for it.  While both the ’89 and ’06 Toyota trucks have 6′ long beds, those beds are narrow and the lack of width was the limiting factor.  But, as I said, it wasn’t a big deal as I simply fabricated a new fixture to hold the tandem upright without its wheels tailor-made for the Tacoma; full details on that project can be found in this blog entry from 12 January.

Roof Topping the Triplet With A Yakima Sport Rack System; Easy, Right?

As for the triplet,  I confirmed the Tacoma could easily accommodate the 9-foot long-span between the front fork and center of the rear wheel in much the same way we carried the triplet on the Tundra.

However, I falsely assumed I’d be able to use the same Yakima towers, crossbars and mounts on the Tacoma I was using on the Tundra, with just perhaps a new set of mounting clips and feet for the slightly different roof design. This would have kept the cost down since we only use the roof rack 3-4 times a year when we need to take the triplet to an event.

Well, it turned out Yakima moved to a completely different tower design for the newer Toyota trucks such that an inexpensive mounting kit for my 16-year old Q-Towers was no longer offered. Instead, I’d have to buy new towers, mounting clips and an adapter for my round crossbar along with a new fairing: all told, about $300 worth of new hardware vs. $45 or a set of Q-Clips as I’d originally assumed.

I paid a visit to our local REI store fully expecting them to have everything I needed; no such luck.  Over the years Yakima has had to eliminate all of the product variability and consumer use of common sense such that every vehicle now has a unique rack configuration, and working outside of those guidelines is frowned upon.  So, REI could sell me a set of four towers, but not two. They had a set of four round bar adapters for those four towers, but a pair was not even offered by Yakima.  Just one of the two sets of different clips needed for the Tacoma — the #1 selling mid-size truck in the U.S. — were in stock; just one… buy you can order it on-line!  Oh yeah, this is going to be fun.

I ended up buying a pair of towers from a bike shop in Lancaster, PA, when I got back to the house and they arrived four days later.  The round bar adapters worked like a champ, but the one set of $60 clips REI had on hand (BC-145) were too short to work where I needed to place my crossbars for the length of the triplet; this was a bad omen.  Well, if the front clip was a bit too short, certainly the rear clip specified for the Tacoma would have enough adjustability to work a few inches further forward from its designated location per Yakima’s installation guides.  So, I ordered the rear clip (BC-128) from an on-line etailer at an awesome $47 price and waited for those to arrive.

The 2nd set of clips arrived two weeks later and even though there wasn’t a pressing need to get the racks on the truck since our 1st triplet outing was until 11 May, I was anxious to make sure the system would work.  Well, guess what: the rear clips were too long, by about 2mm.  Seriously?

Yakima has apparently had to make these roof racks idiot-proof to the point where everything is a precision fit so neither the front nor rear clips that work on the Tacoma will work at a point 1/2 way between where they would normally be mounted, per Yakima’s installation specification.  This is as much a design issue with the Tacoma’s roof as it is Yakima’s clip sizing. To make matters worse, the way their roof mounting systems were packaged, it was nearly impossible to determine which clip-set might work based on the information Yakima made available to consumers… again, because consumers are idiots who want manufacturers to pay for things when they screw up.

Since I couldn’t find any way of determining Yakima’s clip sizing I sent off a request for a recommendation to Yakima’s technical support center, noting the clips that WERE recommended for the Tacoma spanned a roof door to rain rail gap of 7.5cm and 11cm, respectively front to rear.  I needed a clip that spanned a distance of 9cm: pretty straight forward.

It was a day later when I received an answer back from Yakima which was, in essence: We cannot share information on the actual sizing of their various clips so someone like me can figure out how to install a rack in other than the exact location Yakima has designed for a given vehicle. But, for full transparency, here’s Yakima technical support’s actual reply:


My sincere apologies. I do not have the information to prove to you as we would not recommend using our products in this manner. The question is two-fold: 1. provided to you a document with the specifics of each BaseClip and/or 2. provide to you a recommendation.

1. I do not have access to that type of documentation. It is sensitive information that we will not release to the public. My apologies!
2. Basically, every BaseClip and Pad combination is designed specifically to fit in a specific mounting location for every specific vehicle. Because of this I really can not recommend going outside of our recommendations.

I apologize for not being able to answer accurately your questions. If there is anything else I can do for you, please, let me know! 

Yes, I blew my cool when I received this grammatic nightmare of a semi-canned response.  Here I am with $250 worth of new Yakima rack tower parts — yes, they’ve gotten insanely expensive, that’s just two towers not even a full set of four or the cross bars and bicycle attachment racks that go on the system — and it won’t work on our truck.  After I cooled down I sent back a terse reply that essentially said, I get you can’t go outside of Yakima’s guidelines, but that is an unacceptable response.

Later in the evening I did a little more digging and may have broken the code on the sizing, finding three potential clip numbers that might work is my assumption on clip numbering is correct.  However, the challenge now was finding a Yakima dealer who actually had all three of these clips in stock so I could compare them side-by-side with the slightly too long clip I already had in hand.  That left me having to order the pricey clips on-line, hoping I guessed right, less I have to keep buying and returning clips until I found one the right size… or getting out my saw and vice to shorten the one I had by 2cm.

I opted to order one of the three candidate clips from REI on-line  on 23 February and am now awaiting its delivery.  Unlike most purchases off ebay, REI is not sitting on inventory.  So, the clip I ordered back on 23 February didn’t get shipped by REI until 27 February (meaning they had to order from a warehouse and have it shipped to them) and isn’t due to arrive at my local REI store until 7 March.

Pregnant Pause…..

So, here we are on 12 March and after the clip left REI’s warehouse in southeast Pennsylvania on 27 February, it finally arrived at the REI store in Kennesaw, Georgia, on 11 March.  I was told weather was an issue.

Setting aside the logistics, I guessed right!  The clip model I picked was just about the perfect length for getting a secure clamp on the roof of the Tacoma right a the B-pillar. I had to do a little fine tuning to the three different adjustment points on the tower body, but by-golly I was able to achieve a great and secure fit with the clip I ordered.  Yes, I’m now left with a set of tower feet and a clip that’s too long for my needs, but it was worth it, especially since I had no help from Yakima in finding a solution.

So, without further adieux — you can read the adieux after the reveal — here is our new triplet hauler!  Please excuse the filthy condition of the truck, it’s been raining here for weeks and today just happened to be the 1st nice day we’ve had.  But, my schedule was a bit too full today to fit in a truck wash ahead of the photo shoot!

It’s a very similar set-up to the Tundra, but the bike mounts sit about 3″ lower than they did on the Tundra, mostly because of the cab height not the suspension and tires; the Tundra had twice as much headroom as the Tacoma.  But, in this case, less is more… more better.  It’s still a bit of a hefty lift getting the triplet up and over my head given it’s length and 38lb weight, with the front wheel removed.  but, it’s a good fit.  For more info on the suction cup rear wheel mount and the saga of our fairing, see below.

Sea Sucker Rear Wheel Holder Re-Fresh

While I was working to square away the front crossbars for the triplet, I decided it was time to refresh the two suction-cup mounts I used to secure the rear wheel of the triplet to the top of the Tundra’s A.R.E. shell before putting it on the Tacoma’s A.R.E. shell. I bought these back in 2012 when we acquired the triplet and didn’t want to drill holes in the shell for a traditional roof-mounted rack system and they’ve worked-out really well.  As you can see from the photo at right, when I bought these ‘Sea Suckers” as they’re called, they were marketed primarily for use on boats as temporary mounting devices for fishing rods, beverage holders, electronic equipment and the like and, as such, only came in white.  Although they’re now offered in black, I figured I’d see if I couldn’t refinish my white Sea Suckers with a combination of flexible, rubberized “Plasti-Dip” coating on the upper part of the rubber suction cup base, a self-bonding “Fusion” paint on the plastic housing and plunger and then some bed liner paint on the small, aluminum rear wheel tray before putting them on the Tacoma.  I must say, I think they turned out rather well.  The question is, will the various sprayed-on coatings hold up!

Someone asked a couple good questions regarding the Sea Suckers, which were… have they ever come loose and how long do they hold vacuum?  The answer to the first questions is yes and no.  I have seen one of the plungers showing part of the orange “alert” band after several hours on the road to a rally, but it was still holding fast and the 2nd Sea Sucker was fine.  As far as how long do they hold a vacuum, pretty darn long. I can recall taking the triplet to Athens for GTR and leaving the Sea Suckers on the truck for all three days.  I may have had to give one of the plungers a pump or two before we headed home.

Now, I will go on to note that I do use two for the triplet vs. just one given how much load the very long frame could put on the Sea Suckers in a heavy crosswind condition and from wind blast coming off of trucks. However, in certain respects, having the two Sea Suckers connected by the rigid wheel tray may actually cause one Sea Sucker to work against the other since there is no give at the mounting bolts.  I considered using rubber bushings under the tray so it would have some float, but then reconsidered as I really didn’t want the long triplet to be wavering back and forth.  So, I hedge all of my bets by dealing with the two Sea Suckers plus a tether line tied to the rear wheel that runs through the truck shell’s rear door to an anchor, such that IF both Sea Suckers came loose for any reason, the rear wheel would not be free to move by more than a few inches, if at all, noting that one time many years ago I forgot to strap down a rear wheel on a mountain bike and saw what happens when you make a sharp turn with just the fork secured in the front clamp. Thankfully, there was very little damage to the mountain bike or the Brahma shell on our ’89 Toyota truck… but it was a valuable lesson in physics.

I’ve also considered using the pair of Sea Suckers as pseudo towers for a rear crossbar installation, but since the only time I roof top is for the triplet, the tandem arrangement with small wheel tray has been all I needed.

The Fairing Debacle

In addition to my Q-Towers and clips not working on the Tacoma, it turns out neither of the three fairings I owned would work either: the attachment hardware mounting points were in the wrong places.  Yup, it just kept getting better and more expensive.

On the bright side, in the background I had listed all of my old Yakima sports rack equipment for sale on Craigslist and made enough selling that to cover all the costs of the new rack equipment, less the cost of the new fairing.  But, being frugal, I bought the $115 fairing off ebay from a clearance center for $70 including shipping; sweet!  Well, the sweetness of the deal quickly faded when the rack arrived and the box it came in looked like it had been crushed somewhere along the line.  Sure enough, the fairing had been broken… broken, removed from the box & packaging and then put back in the box in such a way that it was clear it had been repackaged after being broken.

The silver lining in all of this was the seller issued me a full refund for the damaged fairing and said he did not want to pay to have it returned, so just discard the thing.  Well, me being me, I always like to fix things if they can be fixed and I did just that with the fairing.

It’s now something of a Franken-Fairing replete with six rivets I used with a thin piece of galvanize metal to rejoin the two broken halves of the Lexan fairing.  It’s an obvious repair, but what it lacks in aesthetics it makes up for in functionality.


I’m now in the process of camouflaging the repair by covering the fairing with the ubiquitous cycling industry brand decals.  Sadly, having previously “decorated” three Yakima fairings that are much larger than my new one, I’ve pretty much used all of the brand decals I’d collected over my many years of cycling and came up a bit short.

I did something of a social media-based scavenger hunt to obtain a few more classic brand decals to finish cluttering up my fairing and two long-time friends, Dan from Colorado and Alex from Georgia, came through for me such that it’s now properly cluttered with decals.


Posted in Technology & Equip. | 1 Comment

SOORTA Santos Fun-Mountain Biking in Florida

A great account by Glenn & Barbara of yet another fantastic off-road tandem weekend.

Reindeer Games

March 1-3, 2019

Santos State Park, Ocala Florida sports a great campground (water & electric) located at the Santos MTBing trailhead. More than 85 miles of trails awaited twenty plus tandem mtbing couples for some weekend fun! Couples from Texas, Arkansas, Indiana, New Jersey, Tennesee, Massachusetts, Geogia, and Florida escaped the cold to ride in the sun.

Our Florida hosts, Chris and Monica Judd, did an outstanding job planning and organizing a fun filled weekend: 5 bike rides in 3 days, screen printing t-shirts and coozies and a pot luck dinner. Alex and Kim Nutt, MTB Tandems, brought demo bikes, sponsored snacks and mechanical support.

There may not be mountains in Florida, but the fast flowy trails provided the opportunity to work on technique while speeding through the trees on miles and miles of single track! All trails are clearly labeled and marked with placards that show direction and level…

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Our Schedule Thus Far…

As we look ahead to our options and try to balance our motorcycle rally schedule with our tandem rally schedule, this is what it’s looking like thus far:



  • Bike Week, Daytona Beach, FL, 14-17 March
  • Thunder Beach, Panama City Beach, FL, 3-5 May
  • Road Trip – Nashville, Memphis & New Orleans, June
  • Road Trip – Key West, FL, 2-7 July
  • Biketoberfest, Daytona Beach, FL, 17-20 Oct
  • Fall Bike Week, Panama City Beach, FL, 25-27 Oct

There will, of course, be a few other trips to Pennsylvania to visit my family and we’re trying to build on some of the tandem rallies to add in family & friend visits to New England and the Chicago area.

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44th annual Midwest Tandem Rally Rally in Columbus, Indiana.  

Our friends at Hoosiers Out On Tandems (HOOTS) are hosting the year’s Midwest Tandem Rally in Columbus, Indiana, over the Labor Day Weekend, 30 August through 2 September, and passed along this invitation for us to share with our readers.  It looks like it will be a great event. 

We invite you to join us for the 44th annual Midwest Tandem Rally Rally in Columbus, Indiana.  

You may register at

“Rediscover Columbus” will start in a new headquarters located just north of the city of Columbus.  This new location provides first rate hotel accommodations, easy access to I-65, and country roads connected directly to the parking lot.

Columbus is famous for its architecture, and our Friday route will explore the many buildings that make the city unique

What’s New for MTR 2019

Friday Modified Poker Run route starting at the Hilton.  You will have several stops in Columbus where you will have the opportunity to draw a playing card for your poker hand.  At two of these stops, you’ll be free to exchange a card with another team that you don’t already know (hence “modified” poker run).  The last stop in Columbus will be at the Upland Pumphouse where we’ll encourage you to hangout and socialize.

Friday Evening Mixer for Families:   This will be a simple gathering to allow teams with children to meet each other.  More details to follow.

Saturday Evening Hospice Concert (free): The performers for the 2019 Hospice Concert will be announced in May.  We have arranged for reserved seating to accommodate 200 people.   This number may be increased depending on the performer and rally attendance.  A variety of food trucks will be at the concert, and you may bring your own food and drinks including alcohol.  You should plan to bring folding chairs or a blanket.

Sunday Evening Dessert Social (optional fee):   Socialize with your fellow tandem riders.

Monday Mountain Biking (optional fee):  Before you head home, please join us for a no drop mountain bike ride on the trails of Brown County.  We will start in Brown County State Park and head out to enjoy the trails of Yellowwood Forest, and then back into the park.  The ride will be approximately 3 hours long, consisting of single track, double track, and loads of fun.  We will have a SAG stop to provide drinks and snacks.

More Information at

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