Three-Minute Tandem Overhaul… Yeah, Right.

File0956So, just how fast can a tandem’s existing shifting system & brakes be changed out?

Would you believe three minutes? No.

OK, would you believe three hours , but reduced to three minutes through the magic of video editing? Ok then.

However, unlike most of my videos where I cull 30 – 40 ‘clips’ from the hour or two of images collected over three or four hours that get spliced together to create a short video, this time I increased the playback speed by a factor of 10x so you can see almost the entire process in just about three minutes.  Yes, that’s a bit long for a stupid vanity video, but 15x gave me motion sickness and, well, who ever finishes an entire video on YouTube anyway.

For what it’s worth, in watching the video myself during the editing process and as a final product I was somewhat surprised at how often I went back and forth to the workbench when I was measuring, cutting and  filing the ends of the cable housing. Normally I’d just measure and cut all of the new cable housings against the hold ones, but with the different shifters and brakes having a slightly different cable routing path as well as a less flexible type of cable housing, that tried and true time-saver didn’t seem to be an option this time around. If I was doing this every day I’m sure it would have been a lot more efficient; heck, I even took out time to read the installation instructions!

So, here it is:

For anyone who may have missed the back story on why I had the opportunity to use one of my GoPro cameras to capture an overhaul, this past week I noted that our tandem’s shifting was becoming a bit spotty. All of the details are in a couple of blog entries; one that talks about what I was planning on changing and another on why I was really making the change.

To make a long story short, I haven’t fiddled with any of our bikes all year and our Calfee tandem hasn’t had any changes in four years, so it was time to scratch an itch and I decided to embark on a long-term test of Shimano’s Ultegra 6700/6703 series shifting system to see how it may have changed over the years.  We’ve been running Campy Ergo shifters on all of our road tandems and single bikes since 1997.  Our triplet came with Shimano Dura Ace STI triple and it’s actually performed pretty well.  And, seeing as the Shimano Ultegra is what most mid to premium-level production tandems are outfitted with now days, it seemed like a good time to test my objectivity.

Shimano-Ultegra-Schalt-Bremsgriffe-STI-ST-6700-ST-8a4c5cc8afe04e6adf35e344789c65b9I ordered the shifters from Jenson USA around 2:00am on Monday morning, along with new cables, housing, bar tape and in a subsequent order, a set of new caliper brakes.  I would have preferred to keep my lovely black Campy Record Skeleton brakes on the tandem but: (a) you can’t use Campy brakes with Shimano shifters as the brake release mechanism for Campy is in the lever, not on the brake as it is with Shimano; and, (b) the Campy brakes are due for new pads which can cost about 1/3 of what the new Ultegra brakes did, so why not.

gsgThere’s also an Ultegra 6700 rear derailleur on its way that was purchased on eBay, but it won’t arrive until Monday.  Yeah, best laid plans.  But, that turned out to be a non-issue since it rained all weekend (no need to finish the complete shifting change out) and because I still had an old M950 XTR rear derailleur sitting around that as it turned out, works just fine with the Ultegra 10-speed shifters and an XT 10-speed rear cassette.  Now, that all makes sense knowing what I know about Shimano shifting systems.  The rear derailleurs — at least the contemporary ones like the 9/9 speed M950 model, are slaves to the shifters. So, if the shifters match the cassette, the derailleur’s pull and movement should as well.

There’s a slight change in the idler & jockey wheel design, but since I don’t use Shimano chains I don’t think it really matters.  And, quite frankly, the M950 will have done what it needed to do by allowing me to complete the shifter installation / upgrade.  The Ultegra 6700 should be a plug and play with the M950 once it arrives.  But, that said, the old XTR rear derailleur still looks pretty slick.


In fact, the new shifters also look pretty slick and have a pretty beefy feel to them compared to my beloved Campy Ergo levers that I’ve used for so long.


So, it will be interesting to see how it all works once we get some dry weather and can hit the roads again.  No, I’m not feeling the love on the brake caliper finish, but it’s an experiment, right?  And there are some better looking 3rd party calipers out there on the market, right?  And if I really wanted to step up my brakes and tandem technology to current state I could just swap out the front fork for a tandem-rated, disc-compatible, fork and go dual-disc on the tandem.  Yeah, well… like I said, I’ll deal with the grey color for the time being.

More to follow once we get the Calfee back on the road.

Posted in Technology & Equip. | Leave a comment

Southern Tandem Rally Is On, Come Rain or Shine!

Screen Shot 2015-03-27 at 1.21.54 PMWe just received a note from our friend & co-chair of this year’s 2015 Southern Tandem Rally which gets underway on Friday in Richmond, Virginia.  She wanted to let folks who have signed-up for rally know the event is still on.

Note: This is just a pass-along. We would suggest anyone who is headed to Richmond for STR carefully evaluate their travel plans, the latest weather outlook and other considerations as part of their decision process. Sadly, and for a variety of reasons, we will not be making the trip to Richmond.  

Posted in Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

The Calfee Refresh: It’s Not About The Bike…

A reader — Dave — posted a comment to my ‘Calfee’s Getting New Shifters & Rear Derailleur… ‘ blog entry wherein he noted he’s had great success mating Campy shifters to a Shimano Cassette using a Shimano Ultegra rear derailleur and a Jtek shiftmate.  He went on to mention that this combination has outperformed a Campy + SRAM derailleur set-up and even works better than full Shimano or Campy equipped bikes he has ridden.  Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.23.18 PMHmmm.

In responding I had to think back on all of the different configurations I’ve used, when I made the changes and why.  In doing that I also went back and checked a few past blog entries where I captured the details: yes, it’s all there.  Turns out, my assessment of “how long it’s been” since I made my last upgrades was grossly underestimated.

I had it in my mind that I’d made the last change over to the current Campy 10 + SRAM X.0 10- speed derailleur configuration just a couple years ago.  Yeah, well… make that over four years ago.  And, it just so happens, one of the major drivers for the shifting issues I was having back in May 2011 were related to a worn-out G-spring in the right-hand Campy Ergo shifter that controls the rear derailleur.

Son-of-a-gun, if that’s not what’s really behind the current, sloppy shifting on the Calfee. G-springsThe mileage on that G-spring at about 12,000 is about spot-on for how long a G-spring will last before shifting goes south. So, instead of doing a $300.00 “tune-up” on the shifters and rear derailleur, all I really needed to do was to take apart my right shifter and replace the $3.00 G-spring.  Really, that’s all and I’m pretty sure I knew that all along.  So…. what the hey??!!

As it says in the subject line, it’s not about the bike.  No, it’s about the bike’s owner and his well-worn G-spring.  As I said, I think I knew all along it was probably time to change out the Campy G-spring as well as the brake hood covers on our 10-speed Campy Record shifters. The brake hood cover has been sliding around for a few months — worn and stretched from wear — and the shifter feel has been mushy and imprecise.  Yes, the derailleur cables and housings are also due for replacement based on what I saw when I pulled the tandem apart to ship it off to Calfee.  But, where’s the joy in just replacing a few parts that are nearly invisible?  Yes, it’s all about the joy-factor and I’m guessing my subconscious need to fiddle and tweak got the better of me at 2:00am on Sunday night when I decided to go shopping for new shifters, derailleurs, cables, housing, etc.

In retrospect, I’ve been quite restless when it comes to our bikes. While a few bikes have come and gone from the stable and a few got upgrades, the Calfee tandem — the bike we ride the most — and our Calfee single bikes haven’t gotten any love over three years.  In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was just getting bored with our Calfee tandem.  It’s been years since I did any real experimentation and as noted, the last time I touched the shifting system with an eye towards “fixing something” was 2011.  The Calfee’s are all unpainted, so there’s no real joy that comes from a wash and UV protectant application.   In fact, it wasn’t long ago that I was talking with Debbie about sending the tandem frame back for a paint job, something I swore I’d never due to our lovely, nude Calfee frames.

It’s not that the Calfee hasn’t been a source of joy, it has. In fact, we take for granted just how great a tandem it has been, noting that it’s racked up more miles that we did on any of our previous tandems. As it nears its 9th birthday it has easily surpassed 30,000 miles of use and is as much fun to ride as it was when it was brand new. But, as a bike & tandem geek, I get a lot of my joy from trying new things and there hasn’t been anything new or different on the Calfee since that last rear derailleur change in 2011.

My surrogate source of tandem geekiness was the acquisition and make-over of our Precision Triplet in May 2012 . That was a fun project and, coincidentally, it gave us a much-needed shot-in-the-arm in terms of looking forward to rallies and weekend trips to Tennessee since it put the fun back into tandeming in a big way. It definitely scratched my itch for learning more about tandem cycling and also gave me a great way to stimulate the cycling economy when it needed it.


VLUU L310 W / Samsung L310 WIn 2013 I satisfied my need to fiddle with bicycles by acquiring a Dean Scout frame and doing a fresh build-out of it during March and putting myself on a two-year long drive to shed about 20lbs through a combination of diet and a return to off-road cycling. The hardtail was a blast to ride, but by July I was busy updating the shifting and brakes on my ’97 Ventana Marble Peak. Amazingly, the now 13-year old RockShok fork was still performing well after giving it a bit of a tune up.  Having the choice of a full-suspension or hardtail bike fitted with the same SRAM shifting and Avid disc brakes allowed me to select the right bike for the kind of workout I’d get.

marblepeak2 IMG_20130703_114534_813

In September 2014 it was the Ventana off-road tandem’s turn to get some love. New Avid disc brakes to replace the fatally flawed, Hope Enduro screaming meanies and a change-out of the handlebar and stem to give me a more upright riding position transformed the Ventana into a far more comfortable and enjoyable machine.

DSCN0490 DSCN0485
As if almost on queue and with the Calfee having already been torn apart so it could be sent off for repair as a catalyst, here I am in late September 2015 buying new parts for the Calfee so that it can also be ‘freshened-up’.  This will also be a great chance to reacquaint myself with Shimano’s STI system on a tandem as well as their brakes as explained in my prior blog entry.

framesSo, while a $3.00 G-spring would have most likely fixed the shifting on the tandem, yours truly would have most certainly remained restless and either built-up the Erickson Signature or Bianchi MegaExo TdF frames that have been stored away for quite a long time.

Something was going to happen… and soon!  And, by golly, it did.  By Friday I’ll have everything but the rear derailleur and can probably find a spare XTR rear derailleur to get us through the weekend on something other than the Calfee.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New Entries At Riding Two-Up

900054Yes, it’s actually pretty thin over on the motorcycle blog this month.  There are a couple rallies coming up in October, so perhaps that will be the source for some new material. However, the daily commute on the BMW R1100S continues and every weekend brings with it a ride on Blue.  Just looking forward to those longer road trips…

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

Calfee’s Getting New Shifters & Rear Derailleur…

After giving it some thought — and despite my long-standing love affair with Campagnolo’s Ergo shifter design — I’ve gone ahead and ordered up a set of Shimano Ultegra ST-6703 STI shifters and an RD-6700-GS-G long-cage rear derailleur to replace the hybrid system on our Calfee.

So, the Campy Ultra 10 Record shifters and the SRAM X.0 rear derailleur will be going into the parts box and will likely see use on something else at some point.

campagnolo-2008-record-ergopower-shifters-10-speed 2010 SRAM X.0

In their stead will be the older spec, 10 speed Ultegra shifters & rear derailleur that are pretty much what Co-Motion specs on their full performance tandem line.


No, it’s not sexy but it should work well right out of the box and I’ll just learn to adapt to the different shifting.  In fact, our triplet has the very rare Dura Ace 7703s triple shifters which have the same basic ergonomic function as the 6703’s, and I’ve been able to adapt to and use those without too much trouble.

They won’t arrive in time to go on the Calfee for STR; however, they’ll be a welcome addition for our fall and winter rides.  I’ve also ordered up some new cables and housings so that everything in the shifting path will be fresh, as will the brake cables and housing.

Shimano 6800 brake largeDagnabit, I also need to rethink my brakes!  Campy uses a release button in the brake lever / shifter housing to “open” the brake calipers whereas Shimano uses a cam lever on the caliper.  If I don’t change at least the front brake then I’ll be hard pressed to remove the front wheel while still maintaining proper brake lever feel and purchase.  Hmmm, back to fleabay I guess.

Posted in Technology & Equip. | 2 Comments

Southern Tandem Rally, It’s Just A Couple Days and 554 Miles Away!

Screen Shot 2015-09-27 at 10.41.24 PMSure enough, we’re just a few days away from making the 8-hour drive to Richmond, Virginia for the Southern Tandem Rally.  Based on what I’m seeing on Facebook, it would appear folks who attend rallies who have far more leisure time than we do have already arrived for the pre-tour, which was kicked-off with the UCI World Championship ‘Elite Road Race’ won by Peter Sagan of Slovakia.  In fact, it was Richmond’s hosting of the UCI Championships that was the catalyst for hosting STR in Richmond on the weekend after the championship events wrapped-up in Richmond.

I’d like to say we’re all excited about STR and looking forward to the event, but so far it just hasn’t captured our imaginations.  In fact, we talked about that at length today. The weather outlook isn’t helping either and we only have until just before midnight tomorrow night to cancel our room at the Hilton.  Decisions, decisions.

Here’s the dealeo… Neither one of us are quite sure of what has led to our loss of interest in these events, as we still enjoy visiting with our cycling friends who we rarely see except at tandem rallies. Having the opportunity to get a couple of back-to-back days of riding with a large number of tandem teams has always been something we look forward to as well.  We both have theories as to why our interest has waned so we’ll have to see how our trip to and time in Richmond plays out to see which of us is more on-target.  Of course, the prospect of a rain-out after driving 554 miles is also hard to wrap our heads around, never mind temps in the 50’s and low-60’s. Tick tock, tick-tock…

20150927_184013But, hey…  the tandem is loaded in the back of the truck and we’ve  made provisions to bring a second tandem back from Richmond that was out on loan from our friend Alex at  So, we’re “leaning forward” on the trip.  Tomorrow we’ll make a final call after a late day check of the weather outlook.

Thankfully, we already made alternative plans for our regular GTR/STR triplet stoker so that she’d have a solid ride opportunity for all three days of STR. That will ensure she gets more ride time at a higher tempo even if we do make it up.  As mentioned in an earlier blog entry, and assuming we make the trip and weather permits, we’re thinking we’d use Friday as a warm-up day for Saturday as we’d be getting in late on Thursday night after our 8-hour drive. I’d also need to sort out the shifting on our tandem so that we’d be in good shape for Saturday, as that would hopefully be our “big day” for the weekend.  Sunday we’d either skip the ride or take the shortest route option so we could be back on the road before noon for the 8-hour drive back home: work comes early on Monday!

20150927_145020In the mean time, we are quite happy to have our Calfee tandem back and the weather finally gave us a break from the rain so we could get in a shake-down ride today to make sure everything on the bike was working after the rebuild.  Sadly, it still has the same shifting issues that it had before we sent it off, so I still need to do some thing about that.  As mentioned in my previous post, it’s most likely time for new cables and housings, noting my Rube Goldberg Campy/SRAM/Shimano shifting set-up demands precise cable pull, something that’s hard to get once the cables and housing have a few 1,000 miles of use.  Other than that, the tandem performed quite well and didn’t squeak or creak. So, given the tandem is still running the same shifters I installed some 8 years ago, perhaps it’s time to look at updating the transmission components or go back to the shiftmate + Campy Record RD and just deal with a little noise when we’re in the alpine gear, i.e., 32×32.  We’ll see…


Something’s missing… oh yeah, the glasses. Now I can see what they’ve been hiding; Yikes!!

I do need to note there was something about today’s ride that counts as a first: it was the first time I could actually see properly while cycling in nearly 20 years.  Yes indeed, it was around 1995 that I finally had to start wearing glasses as I was becoming a little nearsighted.  Or, more to the point, I’d been blessed with 20/15 vision and was suddenly seeing only 20/20.  So, it wasn’t that I couldn’t see well, I just couldn’t see as well as I had been for the first 35 years of my life.   I could ride a bike and drive without glasses in bright light, but my depth perception would go quickly in the shade and overcast conditions.  As a result, I never bothered to get high performance prescription eyewear for cycling.  Over time my nearsighted condition has gotten a little worse so I finally decided to give contact lenses a shot this past week.  Wow, it was quite a thing to have clear distance vision for today’s ride.  Now, I’m still struggling with the Monovision lenses, where my right eye is corrected for distance whereas my left eye is corrected (and perhaps over-corrected) for reading.  In fact, for today’s bicycle ride I simply put in the right eye’s contact and didn’t put in the one for reading.  It actually seemed to work quite well. I’m thinking they may have over-corrected my left eye for what I truly need.  We’ll see…  I’m not fully sold on contacts just yet.

In other news, I finally found enough time to sit on terminal hold with my ISP so I could talk to someone who could speak English well enough to sort out an issue with my passwords, Email addresses and account information for  I’ve not been able to make any updates to the site for the past several months, so having gotten everything reset I was able to add Kirk’s Bicycle Shop in Ramona, California to the tandem dealer list (he’s now a Santana Test Ride Center), post updates for next year’s International Tandem Rally in the Netherlands, update the Mississippi Tandem Rally’s information for 2016 (aka, the Ridgeland OBO Tandem Rally) and start making updates to a variety of other 2016 rallies.  Yes, I was a bit early in starting that: see my first thoughts above.  I was apparently looking for some inspiration.

Anyway, that’s about it in terms of what we have on our cycling minds.  Perhaps we’ll get our tandem rally mojo back at STR!  Here’s hoping…

Posted in Bloggishnish, Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

Our Calfee Tandem Returns Home & Is Now Ready To Ride!

As predicted by FedEx’s delivery system, our Calfee tandem frame arrived in Kennesaw, Georgia, on September 23rd.  As for why it took 6 days instead of 4, it’s still a bit of a mystery but it would appear it had something to do with being shipped over a weekend and/or through Brownsville, Tennessee, since that’s where it seemed to sit for two days.

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 9.00.40 AM

It was signature service so I had the frame dropped-off at the local FedEx office instead of having them attempt home delivery as the odds of us being at the house when they come by are slim to none.  I headed to the FedEx office just before noon, signed for the shipment and happily headed back to work with the boxed frame in my truck.  It was interesting to see that I had sent the frame out in a bicycle wheel box (below left), but that it came back in a bike frame box (below right).

20150823_214300 20150923_200822

However, they did an amazing job of packing the frame: it was completely mummified in 1/8″ thick foam sheeting and immobilized in the box with air batting and wadded-up foam sheeting.  It probably took me the better part of 15 minutes to get the frame unwrapped and then all of that packing material stuffed back into the box so that I’ll have it available for any future needs.


After inspecting each of the four pieces of the frame I went ahead and did a loose assembly of the frame so that it would look like a tandem frame instead of an Erector set waiting to be played-with.

On initial inspection, the repair looked fantastic.  In fact, and as you’ll see in the larger, detailed photos a bit further down this entry, I couldn’t really even see the repair as they did a very nice job of putting some finishing touches on the coupler joint that completely covered the weld.  Additionally, they appear to have refinished the frame and applied new Calfee decals on at least the rear stays, head tube and the down tube.

20150926_081211 20150926_081234

Just a lot of loving care, to say the least, and probably a pretty good explanation for why it takes an extra day or so for the bike to move through final inspection, delivery prep and shipping.

OK, let’s take a look at those couplers.  The first photo below is of the rear coupler on the opposite end of the top tube from the one that had the broken weld. There’s about a 1/2″ of the coupler sleeve exposed where you can see the weld joint: it’s very subtle as it was worked-down after being welded.  That “working down” process is what went a bit too far on the front coupler, leading to the weakened weld that eventually broke.


In fact, here’s a photo of the boom tube’s front coupler where it’s a lot easier to see the weld.


And now, here’s the coupler joint that was repaired: beautiful!  They apparently removed some of the original composite material from behind the coupler and the applied a 1″ band of new material that also covers the weld joint.  It makes for a very nice, clean look at the coupler that I would have gladly paid to have applied to the other three couplers.


It was Friday afternoon before I could carve out a couple of hours to re-assemble the tandem so it would be ready to ride on Saturday.  I actually set up one of my GoPro cameras with the intent of capturing the rebuilding process on video that I would compress to about a minute for the blog.  Sadly, I somehow ended up taking a single still photo instead of the hour-long re-assembly process: Doh!  I hate when I do that.  I just don’t use the cameras enough to be proficient with them. Cest la vie.


Anyway, it found it interesting that the frame came back with an extra seat clamp that it didn’t have when it left and eight new nylock nuts on the water bottle bosses.  I definitely put the parts away they came off the tandem, which is to say they were grimy and should have been cleaned before I did the rebuilt.  But, it’s just going to get dirty this weekend as we’ll probably be riding on wet roads.

As far as any major discovers or issues on the rebuild, there weren’t too many. I can definitely see a cable housing change over the winter when I put new cables on and it looks like it’s almost time for fresh brake blocks, but that was about it.

Just glad to have her back and ready to ride!  A big thanks to the great people at Calfee for doing a wonderful job on the repair and refresh of the frame and turning it around as quickly as they did.  It’s not like they don’t have a lot of other work in process at any given time.  So glad to be part of the Calfee family of friends and owners.

Posted in Technology & Equip. | Leave a comment