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

The following are the changes we are aware of and several other events are presently in limbo, e.g., Alabama Tandem Weekend and Horsey 100, 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.

3/28 – Added cancellations for:

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

3/24 – Added Road cancellations 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 Off-Road cancellations for:

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

Spring 2020

CANCELLED – Alabama Tandem Weekend, 2-5 April, Dothan, AL, Link goes to their Facebook page: No registration fee for no-frills event; lodging at $99 + tax per night.

CANCELLED – Cheers & Gears Ride (Formerly Ridgeland OBO Tandem Rally), 3-5 April, Ridgeland, MS, $80/pp full weekend, or $45/pp for Sat only ride. Lodging options begin at $109/night before taxes.

CANCELLED – OPEN HOUSE: TandemsEast – Tandem Expo, 4-5 April, Pittsgrove, NJ, No Reg Fee.

POSTPONED – UK Tandem Rally – Easter, 9-13 Apr, Greenhill Leisure Park, Bletchingdon Oxfordshire, UK Tandem Club Membership Required @ £10.00 or £18.00 per couple; all other costs ala carte with various camping / lodging / meal options – See Booking Form

CANCELLED – Southwest Tandem Rally , 16-19 April, Kerrville, TX,   Cost per Team is $250 with lodging at $109 + tax per night.

CANCELLED – Wheels and Waterfalls, 7-10 May, DuPont St. Forest, NC

CANCELLED – Georgia Rally Pre-Tour, 12-14 May, Cordele, GA.  Registration opens 3 Feb with Registration Fee of $75 per team, hotel cost $TBA + tax per night.

POSTPONED – Georgia Tandem Rally, 14-17 May, Tifton, GA.  Registration opens 3 Feb with Registration Fee of $325 per team, plus lodging with hotel cost $TBA + tax per night.

CANCELLED – Eastern Tandem Rally (ETR’s Homepage), 15-17 May, Long Island, NY.  Registration / cost info TBA., Lodging  at $169 + taxes per night.

NEW DATES – TandemsEast – Tandem Weekend, 15-17 May, Wildwood, NJ. All-Inclusive $745 per couple with 2 nights lodging & 5 meals

CANCELLED – Coldspring Tandem Weekend, 27-29 Mar, Coldspring, TX

CANCELLED – Horsey 100 (Non-Tandem But Tandem Friendly), 22-24 May, Lexington, KY,  Registration opens on 15 Jan.

CANCELLED – 38th Annual Kent County Spring Fling, 22-25 May, Chestertown, MD.  Endorsed as “tandem friendly” by the CRABS, all-inclusive with dormatory lodging and meals for 3 nights / 4 days @ $710 per team. Additional Information / registration forms.

CANCELLED – UK National Tandem Rally, 23-30 May, Corsham, West Wiltshire, England.   (2019 costs were: UK Tandem Club Membership Required @ 10 GBP per Person + 7 GBP per person; all other costs ala carte with various camping / lodging / meal options.)

Summer 2020

NEW DATES –Georgia Tandem Rally, 3-6 Sep, Tifton, GA.  Registration opens in July with Registration Fee TBD per team, plus lodging with hotel cost $TBA + tax per night.

Click to access the full calendar of Road Tandem Cycling Events

Posted in Events, Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

Motorcycling – Bike Week 2020 in a COVID-19 World


Although perhaps somewhat ill-advised in light of the novel coronavirus 2019-nCOV (COVID-19) pandemic, we went ahead and rode the Harley down to Flagler & Daytona Beaches for the last three days of the 2020 Spring Bike Week event.  Yes, we took lots of hand wipes and hand sanitizer with us and used them liberally throughout our visit along with regular hand washing, keeping hands away from our face, taking daily showers, wearing fresh clothes each day and used mostly credit card transitions vs. cash.  We were also very mindful about maintaining social distancing from others: fist bumping instead of handshakes, no hugging, etc. beyond our close circle of friends, and even then, it was guarded.

Iron Horse Saloon mid-day on Friday with a very small crowd on hand. Photo by B.Byrne.

Attendance was clearly down during the three days we were in town, which was a mixed blessing.   For us, it was good because it made it more enjoyable and allowed us to keep the aforementioned social distance from other folks in what were mostly out-of-doors venues: the bars or restaurants we ventured into were also far from filled.  However, for the businesses and people that rely on this 10-day event for a good portion of their income, it probably fell well-short of expectation, at least during our time there.

Those following the COVID-19 news may have even heard where the City of Daytona Beach — in a surprise action late on Friday – announced they were pulling all Bike Week-related business permits effective at 8:00am on Saturday morning, 24-hours earlier than business owners with event-permitted operations were originally advised.  This caught the businesses off guard, mostly along Main Street in downtown Daytona Beach where out-of-doors vendors and temporary / expanded bar areas in parking lots adjacent to enclosed restaurants and bars were shut down.  But, as any person with an ounce of common sense should have expected, the latter was purportedly too late to curtail the large crowds. Therefore, the unintended consequence created what was reported to be an overcrowding situation along the sidewalks and inside the brick and mortar restaurants and bars.  However, in Ormond Beach as well as the large vendor area at the Daytona International Speedway where we made stops on Saturday, it was business at the venues and, again, was very easy to maintain social distancing.

With close friends at The Golden Lion Cafe, again… not very crowded.

Even with the COVID-19 crisis in the background, we ended up getting some much-needed time out-of-doors with blue skies and temperatures in the 80’s on all three days of our visit and time with dear friends.  There wasn’t any drama — other than me leaving my wallet at home, and we were able to work around that – and we returned home no worse for wear but glad we’d made the trip down… assuming we did so without bringing home the flu or worse.  Again, at this time of year when the tree pollens are blowing, we always end up coughing, sneezing and run the risk of a sinus / upper respiratory infection. So, the timing of the COVID-19 outbreak couldn’t be worse in terms of creating confusion for people and healthcare providers who are trying to separate the wheat from the chaff, so-to-speak.

Full details are in Mark & Debbie’s Travel Journal

Just skip past the 500-word Summary you just read…

Posted in Cross Post: Riding Two-Up | Leave a comment

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

Travel Journal: Norwegian Cruise to the Bahamas

A Unique Experience, To Be Sure

This past week Debbie and I did something we’ve never done before and something I said I had no interest in: we went on an all-inclusive ocean cruise.

This was a trip not of our own making, as some friends had already booked this very good deal on a short, Norwegian Cruise Line excursion off of Florida’s east coast with ports of call in Key West and three islands in the Bahamas: Freeport at Grand Bahama, Nassau in New Providence, and the Great Stirrup Cay in the Berry Islands. This cruise was originally scheduled for a port of call at Havana, Cuba, but all of that came to an end in early June and cruise lines like NCL were left scrambling to refill staterooms as their Cuba-bound guests began to cancel their trip.

We signed on to join them and tacked on a two-day visit in Florida ahead of the cruise that allowed us to have a Saturday evening out in Daytona Beach and a day at the Kennedy Space Center on the following Sunday before boarding the Norwegian Sun on Monday for the 5-day cruise.

I’ve just completed my 12,000-word travel journal with 80 photos to go along with the narrative over on our other blog, Mark & Debbie’s Travel Journal.  Be forewarned, if you print it out it will fill 21 sheets of paper if printed on both sides of the paper!  The link follows:

Posted in Cross Post: Riding Two-Up | Leave a comment