Our Calfee Journal… The Overdue Epilogue

Our Calfee Trifecta: The Tetra Tandem, my Tetra Pro and Debbie’s Luna Pro.

A couple of folks have asked us how our Calfee story has played out since publishing my final Calfee Journal update back on March 28, 2009.  Probably a fair question and I’ll have to work up something for the web journal if only to cut down on the number of lengthy email replies I’ve been generating of late.  In short, here are the talking points:

  1. Frame continues to impress with its comfort.
  2. Build was pretty much spot-on; no component changes to date other than the typical cassette and wheel swaps.
  3. With 12-13k miles since Jan ’09, the Campy Ergo’s are about due for a rebuild… lots of rear derailleur shifts here in our part of the world with our rolling hills and stair-step steep climbs.
  4. Even though we have a little bit of UV yellowing in a few spots, no regrets over the nude finish: very low maintenance and hides road grime quite well.  It has also made some rework early on a lot more feasible since no repaint was needed. Not sure if using my preferred RaggTopp vs. Calfee’s recommended Aerospace 302 UV protectant was the problem or what, but I’ve gone back to 303 and just deal with the water solubility and streaky mess that you get when sweat and water hit the frame… yeah, about once a month.
  5. S&S… still haven’t travelled with the tandem and in retrospect, probably should have saved the $3k and 3lbs and gone with an uncoupled frame.   Our retirement picture doesn’t seem to suggest world travel will be in our future… mostly road trips here in the good old CONUS is the more likely scenario.
  6. Zona carbon stem… Insanely expensive, but the custom geometry (low-rise, long boom) has been perfect for Debbie and it’s gorgeous-looking.
  7. The Shimano XTR in-line gear position indicator on the front derailleur cable failed at about 6k miles, making a mess of the front shifting during its last ride.  The housing bends were just too tight and fatigue cracked the plastic end cap.
  8. Record calipers — front dual pivot and custom rear dual pivot — working like champs for all but the most demanding terrain. Lots of grip and plenty of room for 25mm tires, perhaps even 28mm if we change out the 45mm rake / 374mm long Alpha Q X2 front for our spare 55mm rake / 395mm long Reynolds Ouzo Pro Tandem fork.
  9. Avid BB7 Road Disc… perfect for those demanding mountain descents and an easy 15 minute swap-out with the rear caliper and a switch to our disc-compatible conventional wheelset.
  10. Wheels: We run our Topolino wheels almost exclusively. We had some issues with the front wheel bearings but they were solved by Topolino and the wheels have been 100% reliable ever since then.  The conventional White Ind / Velocity Deep V wheels  typically stay in the wheel bag as our back-up wheels and get used when we decide to install the Avid BB7 disc, given that the Topolino’s can’t be used with a disc.  The Rolf Prima Vigor Tandem wheels hang in the garage unused for the most part.

Any regrets? Not really.  Debbie is VERY fond of the Calfee and would only be interested in another tandem if it was somehow more comfortable than the Calfee without giving up performance.  I’m not sure what that would be.

If cost were no object, I’d love to put my hands on the following tandems for a year-long comparo with the Calfee:

  • Calfee bamboo
  • Paketa V2R magnesium
  • Co-Motion Macchiato
  • Santana Beyond
  • Cannondale RT2
  • Eriksen or Erickson Ti

Yeah, that’s about $6ok worth of hardware… so that ain’t happening unless we win the lottery. And since I don’t play the lottery, that ain’t gonna happen either.  I guess we’ll just have to assume that our Calfee is still a better machine than we can fully appreciate and more than adequate for our foreseeable needs, wants and desires.


About TG

I've been around a bit and done a few things, have a couple kids and a few grandkids. I tend to be curmudgeonly, matter-of-fact and not predisposed to self-serving chit-chat. Thankfully, my wife's as nice as can be otherwise we'd have no friends. My interests are somewhat eclectic, but whose aren't?
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6 Responses to Our Calfee Journal… The Overdue Epilogue

  1. Wayne says:

    We have had some cassette damage to our freehubs. How has the White Industries Freehubs held up?

    • TG says:

      So long as I use 9 speed cassettes where the larger rear sprockets are ganged together on carriers that spread the drive loads across the freehub, the notching in the freehub is pretty minimal.

      I made the mistake of running an Ultegra 10 speed cassette on our Topolinos and the evil design of those cassettes — fewer splines with fewer ganged sprockets — left two of the sprockets embedded in the freehub such that it took a good deal of effort to get those sprockets and the larger ones off the freehub. I had to file down the notched freehub splines to get a 9 speed cassette back on.

      That experience led me to discover American Classic’s 10 speed Ultegra and Dura Ace clips: http://www.amclassic.com/documents/help/web10_SpeedUltegra.pdf

      These are must-haves if you’re running Shimano’s 10 speed cassettes on anything other than a Shimano hub. Like I said, evil….

  2. bruce robinson says:

    I like you went the route of a custom calfee and found your journal describing your experience most helpful. I have been having creaking problems similar to what you described and was wondering if you ever totally solved them. I have a Gates drive and Lightning cranks.

    • TG says:

      The retrofit of the smaller, and un-sleeved original eccentric to the new design opted by Calfee for its tandem in March of 2008 (or there abouts) solved our problems. I addressed the change in my August 12, 2008 Journal Entry: http://www.thetandemlink.com/calfee_tandem_11.html.

      If your Calfee was built after March ’08, then you should have the larger eccentric with the aluminum sleeve (see below) and that’s a good thing. If it’s an older model and the creaking has always been there, then the eccentric design could be the source.

      Calfee Eccentric

      Sadly, given that our Calfee tandems have what I suspect are different bottom brackets, different cranks and sync drive technology… and perhaps even different eccentrics (we’re using a newer Bushnell eccentric), it’s pretty hard to diagnose the source of your creaking noises. In most cases, it’s a process of elimination where you must rule out each component to find the culprit.

      First place to start is asking yourself: does it creak all the time, only when we’re seated, only when we’re standing, or only when we’re seated or standing and climbing or sprinting? If it’s quiet when you and your stoker are standing, it could be your seatpost or saddle rail interface. If your stoker has a fancy carbon stoker stem, I’d also make sure it’s properly torqued and not showing any signs of unusal wear around the stem or bar clamp.

      After that, I believe Lightning uses a somewhat unique crank / BB interface that they licensed from Specialized and that’s where I’d look next. In other words, I’d remove, clean, inspect and then re-install the cranks (front & rear… noises have a funny way of migrating on a Calfee, moreso than alloy frames) per Lightning’s specs, to include using any lubricants or thread-locker and the proper torque values. This typically solves more than 1/2 of the creaky tandem crank / bottom bracket / eccentric problems I’ve been a party to, especially on tandems fitted with the FSA cranks with outboard bearings: really high torque values & Loctite per their specs are the trick.

      If after addressing the cranks you still have a creaking noise that accompanies pedal downstrokes, it’s time to pull, clean and inspect the eccentric and looking for unusual wear patterns on the eccentric halves & bolts (Calfee OEM version) or the eccentric shell and then reassemble. The reason I wouldn’t suggest doing the eccentric at the same time as the cranks is because you may not know if was tweaking the cranks or the eccentric that solved the problem, which could come in handy if the noise returns.

      Good hunting.

  3. bruce robinson says:

    Thanks for the reply
    Tandem is only one year old and has done less than a 1000miles.
    Creak started on first major trip in northern Itay following riding in torrential rain. Eventually settled and never occurred when riding in highest gear even under maximum effort. Has returned now following a total clean and is worse under load. Will just have to “overhaul” the whole thing again as per your advice.
    Other than the nuisance value, should one be concerned?

    • TG says:

      I would say that most noises and creaks need to be found, diagnosed and then resolved in some way, as they’re simply symptoms of something that’s going to get worse over time.

      By worse over time, that typically follows the old Fram Oil Filter mantra: You can pay me now (cheap and at a time and place of your choosing), or pay me later (expensive and at the wrong time & place).

      For example, a creaky bottom bracket interface left unchecked (where .01 of Loctite & checking torque) can eventually require a new bottom bracket and/or do permanent damage to the crank. so it goes with just about every sqweak and noise on a bike.

      In fact, this past SaturdayI found our drive chain was squeaking on every climb… doh! It had been several hundred miles since I lubricated the thing and what I was hearing were the pins and rollers dry-humping each other: not a good thing for extending chain life. A dab of ProLink (my emergency lube for road trips) and it was quiet again on Sunday’s ride.

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