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

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

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

Hosted by: Al and Sandy Smith

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

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

Hosted by: Brenda & Larry Isherwood

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

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

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

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

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

Hosted by: Kris and Andrea Smith

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

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

Hosted by: Chris and Monica Judd

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

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

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

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

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

Hosted by: Kelly Rahn and Scott Wood

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

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The 2019 Tandems East Tandem Weekend


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

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

Getting Ready for Our Trip

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

Wednesday: The Drive to Pennsylvania

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday: Great Day with Friends at TETW

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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Wobbly Wheels on the Dean Castanza

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

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

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

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

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Triplet’s Are Tough on Drivetrain Components

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our 21st Georgia Tandem Rally

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

Thursday:  Loading Up & Get-Away-Day

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

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

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

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

Friday:  Remote Start from Social Circle

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday:  The Biscuits in Jersey Ride

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday: A Short Ride & The Return Home

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

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

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

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

Posted in Tandem Rallies | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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


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

Saturday:  Rally in the Valley is a Rain Out

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

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

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

Posted in Events, Tandem Folks | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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