Making Do Without The Road Tandem

As noted in my previous blog entry, last Thursday I finally realized the source of a “click” I was hearing on every pedal stroke since August was a failing S&S coupler installation at the junction of the boom tube and the rear triangle of the frame.  After chatting with Craig at Calfee Design about the failing coupler it was pretty clear the frame should not be ridden and would need to be sent back to Calfee for a warranty repair. I stripped, boxed and shipped the frame to Calfee Design in La Selva Beach, California, later that same day and I’m happy to report that — at least according to FedEx — the boxed frame arrived on Wednesday.  Hopefully I’ll hear something from the good folks at Calfee in the next day or so on the prognosis for how long the repair(s) will take and when it will be shipped back. In the mean time, we’ve been making do this week by riding our respective single bikes together.  Coincidentally, we both have Calfee single bikes so at least we’re still enjoying the same plush ride qualities that we experience on our Calfee tandem.
Riding our single bikes together is something we haven’t done since the last time we found ourselves without our tandem back in August 2015.  Yes, it’s definitely a double-edged sword: it’s truly disappointing that we had to ship the frame off on our nickel for a repair, but we’re really enjoying our time out on our single bikes.  Riding our singles reminds us why we enjoy cycling so much, but it also crystalizes what it is we love about riding our tandem.  The experience is similar, but oh so different when you’re sharing the same bike and working as a team vs. riding your own bikes your own way. I sometimes forget that Debbie and I have very different riding styles.  It’s only when I get to follow her on her single bike that I can see her preference for pushing a big gear at a low cadence.  Me, I’m more of a spinner and thankfully, she adapts to my higher cadence when we’re on the tandem. Another benefit I get from riding with Debbie on her single is being able to identify things that need attention, such as the rear derailleur being just a little bit out of adjustment.   She’s not all that in-tune with her bike and so long as the thing steers, stops and will shift gears she’s good-to-go.  Having the chain crossed-up from big ring to big cog or visa-versa with the chain rubbing on the front derailleur cage doesn’t faze her in the least.  And, while I know she could trim it out with a slight push of her left Ergo shift lever, I also know better than to make that suggestion.  After all, it’s not bothering her!   So, when we finish a ride I’ll make adjustments unbeknownst to her that help to dial-in the shifting as best as I can.  Of course, if she knew I’d made adjustments I’d be in the dog house since, after all, “It was fine the way it was!” Sadly, I’m pretty sure we’ll be off the bikes until October 1st, at the earliest.  We rode 32 miles from the house on Monday and yesterday, Wednesday, and between getting ready for a community garage sale on Friday and Debbie having to spend time seeing to her mother an hour away in Canton, Georgia, there won’t be an opportunity for a ride later today (Thursday) or Friday.  Saturday we’ll be out of town for an event here in Georgia, and then on Sunday we’re scheduled to fly to Salt Lake City, Utah, for a week-long sight-seeing trip with friends.  Of course, if her mother’s condition becomes an issue, I wouldn’t be surprised to see our travel plans change. Regardless, we’ll be anxiously awaiting word from Calfee on our tandem.  We’ll only have a week and two days between the time we return from Utah and the day we’ll need to head south to Venice, Florida, for the Southern Tandem Rally.  And, while friends have offered to loan us their spare road tandems for that pre-rally week and the rally, we’d really like to have our Calfee back under our butts.   And, to be really honest, we wish we were taking the triplet to Venice and riding with our friend Lisa, but she is otherwise indisposed.
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Deja Vu: Calfee Coupler Failure #2

About a month ago I noted an annoying clicking sound coming from the rear crank area during one of our first, post-retirement tandem rides.  I noted it in the related blog entry and at that time assumed it was coming from her right pedal/shoe. After changing out the cleat, the noise persisted. To make along story short, the next four weeks were spent overhauling pedals, servicing the eccentric and bottom brackets, applying Loctite 242 to all of the chain ring bolts and as a last resort swapping out the bottom brackets for another before yesterday’s ride. Sadly… the clicking sound was still present during that ride so it clearly wasn’t being caused by any mechanical parts and that’s not a good thing.  As we rode along I did a little more dynamic analysis and realized I could easily induce the clicking by putting a heavier load into the pedals.  It was at the moment I realized what was wrong: one of the couplers on the lower tube had most likely failed or was in the process of failing.
By failing, the stainless steel fittings that allow our tandem to be taken apart and packed in a suitcase for travel are bonded to the frame tubes using titanium sleeves.  The couplers ride on top of a titanium sleeve produced by S&S that, in turn, is pressed into and welded to a longer titanium sleeve by Calfee.  It’s that longer sleeve that gets inserted and bonded to the inside of the composite frame tubes, noting the titanium coupler sleeve has to be used instead of steel to prevent galvanic corrosion. Back in August of 2015 the weld in one of these sleeves broke.  The frame had to be sent back to Calfee near San Jose, California for repair, leaving us without our road tandem for just over a month.  Given we’re scheduled to attend the Southern Tandem Rally on 11-14 October, we really didn’t have a month to get this fixed if, in fact, my suspicions were correct. To confirm my suspicions, once we were back at the house I pulled the tandem apart and sure enough, the lower / rear coupling was failing.  The following is a short video that demonstrates just how much deflection was present once the removable top tube was taken out of the equation.
I sent off an Email to Craig Calfee that included a link to the above video, who is a friend as well as our tandem builder.  He called me within the hour and confirmed that the tandem shouldn’t be ridden as is and needed to come back for repair.  He promised a quick turn so I stripped the frame of parts, packed it up and shipped it off within a couple of hours of our phone call.  It should arrive at Calfee by next Wednesday or Thursday, a 4-business day trip across country.

Amazingly, it only takes about 20 minutes to remove all of the components from the tandem.   Of course, putting it back together requires all kinds of fine-tuning to get the shifting sorted back out and that sucks.

And there it is: the heart and soul of our tandem with the removable top and bottom tubes removed via-a-via the S&S couplings that are now at issue.

And another 30 minutes later the frame parts are wrapped and boxed for shipment across country, a nearly week-long trip that costs about $150 with insurance added for the very pricey, one-off tandem frame.

I’m hoping they will be able to turn the repairs in a couple of days which should get the tandem back to us with about a week to spare assuming another 4-6 business day trip across country.  In the interim we’ll likely revert to riding our single road bikes or, perhaps I’ll be able to coax Debbie out to the trails on the Ventana off-road tandem.
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Landscapers & The Value of Eye Protection

We were nearing the end of our every-other-day tandem ride from the house yesterday morning, having survived the usual collection of motorists who don’t know about Georgia’s 3-foot passing rule, or who just use really poor judgement, such as attempting to pass on blind curves and nearly having head-on collisions.

Less than 1-mile from our home we come upon a house where the ubiquitous “landscape maintenance guy” (Good grief, does anyone cut their own grass anymore?) is out running his gas-powered string trimmer along the edge of the road.  He’s facing away from the flow of traffic,  which tells me he’s completely unconcerned with where the crap he’s kicking up is going.  A smart and conscientious landscaper would at least have his eyes looking up the road so that he could momentarily lift his cutting head as cars, motorcycles or, in our case, bicycles passed.

Be that as it may, as we approach him I check for traffic and move to the center of the lane to put a little distance between his string trimmer and us, knowing that those things as well as mowers can kick-up rocks and what not and turn them into projectiles.  Yeah, well….  and please excuse my use of an expletive.

Thankfully, I had eye protection on. However, I recently lost my Tifosi cycling glasses and have, instead, been wearing some very inexpensive wrap-around sunglasses which protect the eye but not much else.  Son-of-a-gun if that string trimmer didn’t kick-up a rock and send it into my left eye-socket bone, just under the lower edge of the lens: ouch.   Thankfully, it didn’t do any real harm, it was mostly the shock factor that got my attention.

I’ll most likely make a point of going by there next Tuesday morning and talking with him about the need to be attentive when operating his equipment along the road.  That rock could have easily been kicked into an open car window, motorcyclist, etc.  However, in the interim, I’ve sent off a note to the homeowners regarding the incident since they are technically his employer.

Bottom Line:  Protect those eyes!

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18 Years of Tandem Decal Order Forms Reduced to Confetti

Long-time readers or “friends” of The website may recall that back in 2010 I went in search of a very nice and stylist tandem cycling decal for our truck. I’d seen the decal on a few cars at tandem rallies and seemed to have three difference sources:

  • Some were acquired at a Chicago Area Tandem Society (CATS) hosted rally.
  • Some were purchased from the Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) organization.
  • Some were acquired at a Southwest Tandem Rally.

Turns out, the source was associated with one of the Texas tandem clubs, the Dallas Area Tandem Enthusiasts (DATES), both in terms of design and fabrication. I believe the TX source may have also provided them to the folks at CATS for a Midwest Tandem Rally.  As for the ones in Georgia being sold by BRAG, those were produced by a sports marketing outfit in Atlanta, most likely without the knowledge of the folks who designed it for the DATES.

Anyway, to make a long story short, since I couldn’t buy just the two I wanted, I obtained permission from the folks at DATES to produce and market the decals to the tandem community, which I’ve done for just over 18 years.  The proceeds funded the operation of my tandem cycling website, which was also the primary marketing vehicle for the decals:

Fast forward to this week, I’ve been slowly but surely going through my office and clearing out all of the obsolete “stuff” I’ve acquired over the past 42 years or so because I’m tired of the clutter and really don’t need to hang on to a lot of the stuff I’ve been hanging onto all these years.

Included in the cache of documents that I’ve stockpiled were several thousand order forms, submitted via mail by tandem enthusiasts who were interested in obtaining some of these decals.

True to my word, I never used the names, addresses or other contact information on the forms for any other purpose than documenting the sale of some decals.  After that, they went into an expandable folder.  No data base was ever created, although it would have likely been a highly desirable list that could have been sold to tandem dealers, clubs, etc.

As I was going through my office I finally got to the box with the folders full of order forms.  In that they had true name and contact information, I certainly didn’t want to chuck them into the trash.  Instead, they were all reduced to confetti by our office shredder today.  So, if you ever mailed in an order form for some decals, rest assured, your data has been safe and is now safer than ever and being recycled into new paper!

I’m thinking I may retire from the tandem decal business once the last that I have on hand are sold.  It was a good ‘fund raiser’ for my website early on, but not being in the business of running a real business, I’ve let others step in as the primary source for these things and that supply chain seems to be working just fine for most of the dealers, etc., who buy and sell the decals as a part of their product offerings.



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The Loco’s Loop: Our Tandem Club of Georgia September Ride

Note: We’re still waiting on the official ride report to be posted at the ‘PEACHES’ WordPress site, as it should have some missing names and both pre-ride and lunch time group photos that I’ll poach and add to this report.

This past Saturday Debbie and I hosted the monthly Tandem Club of Georgia group ride.

Unlike a lot of the monthly club rides that venture out into more rural areas, we took a chance and plotted a more suburban route so we could have lunch at Loco Willy’s.  I did my best to plan a route that would hopefully having us riding the opposite direction of morning traffic on the major roads, or at least on roads where cyclists are ever-present road users.All told, we had five couples on hand when we convened the pre-ride meeting at 9:00am; they included Paul & Jody, Rich & Holly, John & Mitzi, Luis & Lilyana. and of course Debbie & yours truly.

After a turn-filled first few miles through one of Marietta’s modest bedroom community communities, we made our way onto the busier roads around Kennesaw National Battlefield Park and then further out into West Cobb County.

We spent the entire ride with John & Mitzi and Luis & Lilyana. on the 36-mile route.  Traffic was a lot heavier than we expected, but the combination of calming lanes, wide shoulders and tolerant drivers gave us a relatively drama-free ride without any close-calls or obnoxious motorists.

We were able to share what I call “The Perfect Road” with our riding companions, one of the few remaining roads that is reminiscent of what West Cobb was like when we first moved there in 1993, i.e.,modest homes on large lots with lovely roads and light traffic.

Paul & Jody opted to ride the shorter, 28-mile loop and reported having a good ride with just one motorist who offered a honk of the horn.  Rich & Holly ended up cutting their ride short and heading home after starting off with a mechanical (tire blow-out) and a navigation error.  To be fair, we used the Ride with GPS tool to create the route maps but the tool would not let me override the use of bike paths or “suggested riding patterns” which created some issues with the GPS maps.  We advised folks to defer to the cue sheets, as I knew those were accurate since they were pretty much hand-built to eliminate the GPS errors.

We had one other couple –Bob & Christi who live a stone’s throw from Loco Willy’s — join us for lunch, noting that Bob recently had a shunt while riding his single bike that left him with his left arm in a sling.  They arrived when Loco’s opened at 11:30am and secured the long table that easily seats 10-12.

Sadly, Rich & Holly headed home early after their issue-shortened ride and our new friends, Luis & Lilyana. also had to leave right after the ride as their son was headed “home” from Georgia State for the weekend to visit.

I think everyone had a good time and enjoyed their meals at Loco’s.  We’ve never been disappointed by the food in our many visits, so we were pretty sure everyone could find something that was to their tastes.  We’ll not repeat this ride in the future given all of the urban encroachment, but I’m glad we did it.  We’ll likely resume our original habit of hosting rides from our home which will keep us off of major roads and give us some other route options further out in West Cobb and East Paulding County.

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Chris Judd’s S.O.O.R.T.A. Update for September

SOORTA (Self Organized Off Road Tandem Adventure) MTB Tandem Event Update.

Big Bear SOORTA organizers Janet-Shaun Devlin getting big air!

Next up!

ETOR 2018!

Just announced!

ETOR 2019 date and location has been announced!

MTB Tandem rally and meetup list:

Fall 2018

ETOR | Allegrippis Trails at Lake Raystown, PA. | Oct 4th-7th 2018 |
Hosted by: Larry & Brenda Isherwood
Level: Intermediate
ETOR is always a great and well attended event.  This year it goes to Allegrippis Trails at Lake Raystown in PA.  MTB Tandems will be there to rent and demo bikes!

FART Rally | Allegany State Park (NY) | Oct 5th-8th 2018
Hosted by: Brian and Karen Managan | 585-754-3908 |

SOORTA Santos Prep! | Ocala, FL | Nov 2nd – 4th | Facebook Link
Hosted by: Chris & Monica Judd |
Level: Easy to Intermediate
Monica and I are going to go to Santos to prep for SOORTA Santos 2019. We’re going to ride the trails west of Ross Prairie, the epic route and some of the vortex. Mostly we’re going to be figuring out the ride routes and pre-riding them well in advance of the actual event. We’d love to have you join us on this trip.

Winter 2019

2019 SOORTA Tucson-MLK Weekend | Tucson, AZ. | January 18th-21st, 2019 | Facebook Link
Hosted by: Mark and Laura Russell
Join us for another great weekend of MTB Tandem riding. January weather in Tucson is routinely outstanding….highs in the upper 60’s/low 70’s, blue skies, and little wind. If your schedule permits, come the week before and enjoy an extended vacation, and bring your road tandem as well! Laura and I would love to show everyone all the great cycling Tucson has to offer.

Spring 2019

SOORTA Santos 2019 | Ocala, Fl. | March 1st-3rd, 2019 | Facebook Link
Hosted by: Chris & Monica Judd |
Level: Easy to Intermediate
This will be our third SOORTA Santos event. Book your campsite starting on April 3rd for the Santos Campground.  We recommend booking Feb 28 – March 3rd). We will ride at the Santos trail system for all three days, starting with Friday (Friday ride TBD). Saturday’s ride will along the mostly easy Santos Epic route and have good options for 25, 35 and 45 miles rides. MTB Tandems will be there to rent and demo bikes! Call MTB Tandems to reserve a bike to demo!

Summer 2019

SOORTA: Bike the Brek! | Breckenridge, CO | June 30 – July 6 | Facebook Link
Hosted by: Hollansworths, Rudolphs & Judds
2019 “Bike the Brek” will feature 7 days of singletrack routes featuring Summit County’s best trails. Breckenridge, Frisco, Dillon, Keystone and Silverthorne are home to some of the most acclaimed trail systems in the country — 37 trails in all!

Fall 2019

ETOR 2019 @ Kingdom Trails! | East Burke, Vermont | Sept  12 – 15 | Facebook Link
Hosted by: Larry & Brenda Isherwood
We will ride for four days at Kingdom Trails. They have over 100 miles of well marked trails for all skill levels and it has been voted as the BEST trail system in VT many times and is a mountain bikers must do bucket list trail system! There are many different types of trails from easy to difficult to some with fun features to ride on. They also have a downhill trail system on Burke Mountain that we may ride one day.

Pictures of SOORTA Ascutney!

SOORTA Ascutney event organizers Al and Sandy Smith

Larry and Brenda at SOORTA Ascutney

Abram and Leigh with their handcrafted SOORTA Ascutney t-shirts!



Carl and Ayako at SOORTA Ascutney

The crew  at SOORTA Ascutney

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Helmet Cam 2.0

As mentioned and demonstrated in a couple of earlier blog entries, I’ve decided it’s in our best interest to capture forward and rearward looking video whenever we’re out riding the tandem.  We’ve just had too many close calls in the four short weeks we’ve been out riding our tandem during weekday mornings and in the event we do have a serious “run-in” with a motorist, I don’t want to leave the outcome to “he said / she said” accounts.  No, I want to be sure there is a visual record of the events.

To that end, I fitted a couple GoPro cameras that I’ve had since 2014 to my cycling helmet two weeks ago Friday.  I put my Hero 3+ on the front of the helmet using one of GoPro’s strap-on temporary helmet mounts, and a Hero 2 on the back with the same type of strap.

This Helmet Cam 1.0 had a couple of issues.

  • The first was, the cameras didn’t have sufficient battery life to record a 2+ hour ride.
  • 20180909_084734Once fitted with additional batteries, the older Hero 2 camera (at right) became a lot more bulky and heavy with just a marginal improvement in recording time.
  • The strap-on temporary helmet mounts blocked both the front & rear air vents, seriously restricting air flow which is not a good thing when you live and ride in Hotlanta, Georgia.

My solution was to acquire a new, barely used second GoPro Hero 3+ off ebay that was also fitted with a 64mb data card and a 5 hr, extended life battery from Wasabi: the exact same configuration as my other Hero 3+.   

Yes, it’s still a fairly bulky-looking arrangement but the weight is well-balanced since the two cameras are now identical and mounted at the front and back of the helmet.  In fact, on yesterday’s Tandem Club of Georgia ride I really wasn’t aware of the cameras or added weight on  my head.  They’ve just become part of my gear.

I also replaced the strap-on temporary helmet mounts with the adhesive-backed mounts and, for extra measure, also ran a zip-tie around each mount, as I could easily imagine the adhesives losing their holding strength after being basked in the hot sun for several hours.  These smaller mounts opened up the vents and there was a noticeable increase in air flow yesterday.

The best news of all from yesterday was not having any really close calls with motorists.  I did observe that when we were riding to the right side of the fog line on the wider, bicycle-friendly shoulders motorists in general didn’t move to the left to give you the full 3-feet of safety margin.  But, I’m OK with that in those situations: they were clearly staying in their lanes.


About the only really bad behavior we saw was a string of motorists who decided to use the center lane / turn lane to pass us, but failed to consider the upcoming intersection where the first car in that turn lane was actually turning.

One of the nice things about having the cameras on the helmet is that it does allow me to grab still “action” photos from the video footage, which is kind of nice.


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