In 12 B.C. — that would be the 12-years Before Calfee, as in our Calfee composite tandem — our benchmark for road tandem performance nirvana was established with our ’98 Erickson Signature tandem.
The beautiful tandem that Glenn Erickson designed and built for us back in the fall of 1998 in his Seattle, Washington shop opened up our eyes to what a performance tandem should look and feel like. I’d guess we’ve logged well over 25k miles on our ’98 Erickson, noting the only reason the miles are so low is because we commissioned a second tandem from Glenn: a travel tandem delivered in 2002 that saw 10k miles of use before we sold it to make way for our Calfee tandem in the fall of 2008.
OK, so what’s the point of all this? For perhaps the last 10 years or so, my good friend David — a true bicycle geek whose been a master tech for most of his life — and I would spend many hours talking about our likes and dislikes when it came to bikes and tandems, noting we both had a penchant for really nice bikes. David’s rides include several Serottas, a Litespeed Taliani tandem, a Ventana El Conq, and several other great rides. My stable included the two aforementioned Erickson tandems, an Erickson single bike, a titanium Dean Castanza, a Bianchi Mega XL Pro, a Ventana single and tandem full suspension bikes and a few other. However, we both agreed that one of tandems we’d love to see (and own) would be one that came from a joint collaboration between Glenn Erickson and Kent Eriksen (aka, Moots at the time): in other words, an Eriksen-Erickson.
The rationale was pretty straight forward:
- Both builders actually rode tandems.
- Glenn Erickson clearly had a knack for designing tandems that were, above all else, designed for the stoker but also incredibly responsive with exceptional single-bike-like handling designed specifically for each team.
- Kent Eriksen has always been another out-of-the-box designer who works magic with titanium and shares Glenn Erickson’s philosphy on designing and building bikes for one customer at a time.
So, just how awesome would a tandem created by these two guys be? Pretty awesome.
Well, son-of-a-gun… shortly after Kent Eriksen sold-off his interest in Moots in 2005 I was having a discussion with Glenn Erickson and he mentioned he and Kent were collaborating on some titanium, Erickson-branded road frames. I about fell out of my chair! I had to ask, “Are you guys building tandems!?” He said no, but then asked: “Do you think there’s a market out there for something like that?” Well, yeah: at least two!! Unfortunately, I didn’t pursue it as the current objective of my affection had become a Calfee composite tandem.
Fast forward a few years and shortly after we acquired our Calfee in late 2008 I crossed paths with someone who had, in fact, commissioned a titanium Erickson tandem! Right on the heels of that discovery, I saw where Kent unveiled his own Eriksen branded tandem at the 2009 North American Handmade Bicycle Show, where it was voted ‘Best Titanium Frame”.
Even though we were pleased as punch (and still are) with our Calfee, I continue to have this insatiable desire to explore what high-end, custom tandem builders like Erickson, Eriksen and Calfee can achieve with their favored materials and design approach. Unfortunately, to truly appreciate the differences in frames like these you must commission a frame that’s designed around your own requirements and then use the same wheels, tires, forks and other key components that have an influence on ride qualities to get an apples to apples comparison. In other words, while it’s relatively easy to compare stock production tandems since they’re built for the masses, once you have a custom-made frame that’s been designed for your team’s weight, dimensions and riding style, you really don’t have a level playing field when trying to compare it to frames that were either built for someone else or the masses.
Anyway, with my interest now piqued again I called Eriksen Cycles and spoke with Katie and, later, Kent. We talked about the tandems that he’d produced since building under his own name and his design approach as well as our tandem frame history, biases and preferences. Right off the bat it was clear that Kent was definitely in receive-mode which is what you want to find in a builder… at least during your initial discussions. After all, there’s nothing more disheartening than going into a custom-built or even a special bike purchase and the builder or dealer has pigeonholed you into a design or brand/model of tandem before hearing you out.
Now, as mentioned in a previous Blog entry, I never progressed my Eriksen project beyond the first contact / exploratory phase because I didn’t want to unnecessarily draw on Kent & Katie’s time and energies unless I was ready to go “All-In” on a new tandem. So, it’s been on the back burner, out of sight but never really out of mind. The same is true for the bamboo Calfee that I’ve already created in my mind’s eye: an exercise in pure, whimsical fun. However, last week’s discovery of Kent’s 29’r tandems coinciding on our search for a new off-road tandem is the kind of coincidence that’s hard to ignore… well, sort of. Cost is an object and the amount of time we spend riding off-road would make the acquisition of an uber-tandem like an Eriksen a bit of a stretch.
More on Kent in another upcoming Blog entry.