Our ’98 Erickson: All Dressed-Up & Ready to GO!

As mentioned in last Wednesday’s blog entry soliciting leads for a small performance tandem to support a Paralympic team’s trip to the US Nationals in Augusta, Georgia, we offered up our ’98 Erickson and it apparently will fit the bill, so to speak.

So, the Erickson has been given the once over and re-fitted with it’s go-fast fork — the 374mm long, 48mm rake True Temper Alpha Q X2 — however; I’m also sending along the 395mm long, 55mm rake Reynolds Ouzo Pro Tandem fork just in case the pilot, Laura W. from my old stomping ground up in Bergen County, New Jersey, finds the Erickson to be a bit too squirrelly with single-bike steering trail and extra-long 32″ stoker compartment.  The Reynolds fork will give the bike a bit more straight line stability but it will also raise the bottom bracket and its beefier legs will also add a little more aero drag.  Again, it’ll be her choice as it only takes about 5 minutes to change out the forks.

I’ve also fitted the 2007 Rolf Prima Vigor Tandem wheels to the bike to reduce the weight a bit and to give them a little aero advantage for the time trial, noting these ’07 Rolfs have the 34mm deep rims vs, the 31mm deep rims adopted in 2008.  Still well short of the 45mm and deeper rim spec that truly does deliver lower drag, but certainly better than conventional wheels for a no-kidding time-trial at the national level. The Rolf’s are sporting the 11x27t cassette they requested, as is a spare set of 36h conventional wheels that I’ll send along with the bike.  It just doesn’t pay to not have a set of back-up wheels when the wheels you’re riding can’t be quickly fixed in the field, and Rolf’s really don’t lend themselves to field repair unless you happen to have the right length of spare spokes (3 different ones are needed to cover all the bases), the right nipple driver and a $350 DT Spoke Tensionmeter… the less expensive Park & Wheelsmith models are purportedly not up to the task of setting the very high tension needed for a reliable repair.   I’ve also thrown an 11x32t spare cassette into the tandem parts care package that I’ll send along with the extra fork and spare wheelset. The Rolf’s are fitted with the 145psi rated 700×23 Vredestein Fortezza tires, whereas the spare wheelset is sporting 135 psi rated 700×25 Fortezzas and I’ve thrown an extra 700×25 spare tire and tube into the parts care package.  No idea if they will want to use their own favored brand of tires.  It’s also got a fresh set of brake blocks that we put on before loaning to some other friends to use while their Erickson was being repaired so it should stop as well as it can with the good-old front & rear dual pivot Campy Record brakes that pre-date the newer differential brakes with the ‘nearly worthless on a tandem‘ single pivot rear brake.

The drive train is about as good as I can get it, with the Campy 9 speed Ergo levers mated to a Campy Record 9/10 rear derailleur with a Jtek Shiftmate so that it can use Shimano 9 speed cassettes. For good measure, I replaced the SRAM drive side chain showing about 50% wear with a new DuraAce/XTR 7701 9 speed chain on the bike so that chain stretch and lubrication shouldn’t be issues.  I temporarily set the bike up with the SRAM X.0 9 speed rear derailleur and shiftmate straight that I had on the Calfee, but didn’t have as much confidence in that configuration as I did in the Campy Record with the more traditional right-angle Shiftmate.

Also per their request, I’ve also fitted the stoker position with a 400mm Thomson seat post off of our Ventana which should provide the 5’7″ stoker with more than enough saddle height and fitted a shorter stoker boom so she’ll have more reach.  But, to be on the safe side, I’m sending along the longer Coda stoker stem which is another piece they’ll be able to swap out in about 5 minutes.  If it turns out they want to get really aggressive with the stoker’s riding position, I’ve also thrown in the super-shorty stoker boom; sadly, it’s the old style with a quill clamp that requires removal of the bar tape and stoker rests to install. But, if needed, it’s there.

My little care package also includes a 100mm stem for the captain, noting I’ve got the 90mm stem on the bike as it sits. Both of the stems are flip-flops and there are some extra 1.125″ headset spacers in the care package that they’ll be able to use with either of the forks to dial in the bar height.  Along those same lines, I’ve gone ahead and thrown in a collection of seat posts with different set-backs so they can fine tune that sometimes tricky dimension without messing around with the eccentric.  The Bushnell eccentrics are awesome, but they really need a torque wrench and close attention to the torque specs to get them tight enough to resist squeaking, but not so tight that they strip the wedges that expand the eccentric.  Not knowing how familiar they are with the Bushnell eccentrics, I’ve also thrown an older spare one in the care package in case they get into any trouble with the one in the bike.  I think that’s it, along with some extra seat post bolts and other miscellaneous small parts.

In some respects, I feel like I’m sending another one of the kids off on a trip and want to be sure that they’re fully prepared and that their hosts will also have everything they need to take proper care of the Erickson while it’s in their care.  I’m guessing that they’ll be somewhat surprised and perhaps even a bit cautious about using the bike when they see it since its showroom like condition does nothing to give away it’s nearly 12.5 years and 30,000 miles of use.  Hey, it’s not a museum piece… it’s just a well-cared for tandem and, frankly, we’d rather see it get put to good use than simply collecting dust in the garage, which is what it’s been doing for the past couple years.

More to follow….  I’m sure this will be an interesting adventure for all involved.  Hopefully our beloved Erickson will help the gals deliver the goods during their week of racing over in Augusta and be as reliable for them as it has been for us.  Of course, we’ve never been able to extract all of the performance that tandem has to offer, so this may be the one time that it really gets a chance to show its stuff.  In fact, while I even considered loaning them the Calfee — which is a bit more durable looking and easier to care for since it doesn’t have a luxurious paint job — we’ve found that the Erickson was actually a faster tandem than the Calfee once it gets into the higher speeds where its very fat head and down tubes come into play  vice the Erickson with its very slender steel tubeset.  The 32″ long stoker compartment is also a better choice for time trials than the 30″ Calfee since it truly lets a stoker get into a very aero position without having to rest their head on their pilots backside.

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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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