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 | 1 Comment

COVID-19 VIRUS ALERT – RALLY CANCELLATIONS & POSTPONEMENTS (5/11 Update)

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.

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

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