Doh! Christening Tandems in the Garage….

Oh the irony…

Why is it the only dents or nicks I’ve gotten in our road tandems came when they were not being ridden and just propped up against a solid object in the garage?  It’s not like we baby our tandems, and Lord knows they get leaned up against all kinds of things when we’re out riding and take a break.

Without intending to jinx ourselves (the way Jay Leno did when he was grand marshal of the Love Ride in Oct ’11), it really does make me wonder what it is about our garage that has made it the scene of three un-assisted / un-supervised tandem fall-overs that have “left impressions” on our ’98 Erickson, our ’08 Calfee and now our recently refinished triplet.

The first fall-over happened back on June 6, 2007. I only know the exact date because I wrote about it at  This is a slightly edited re-post of that entry:

Whilst at a recent tandem rally I noticed a couple of dents on the top tube of an otherwise handsome road tandem. You know, the kind of dents that make you wince a little because they clearly were the kind of dents that occur when a tandem is parked and not in the heat of battle on a criterium course or some other stage race with a tandem class.

The owner shared the story of how the dents came to be and, sure enough, it was “just one of those things” that can happen when you have a couple of bikes stabled side-by-side and/or leaning up against something. 

Today, as I was cleaning up one of our road tandems I took note of a few really minor paint nicks that I’d collected on the top tube over the years and thought to myself, “You know, I’ve really been lucky in that none of our road tandems had ever been dinged despite all the loading, unloading, etc. Perhaps we had satisfied the bike gods by putting more than our fair share of dents and scratches in our off-road tandems?”

About 5 minutes later — really, not even five minutes later including the two minutes of un-quotable self-deprecating commentary I directed at myself — I found myself wondering how to camouflage a dent in that same road tandem. Of course, as “fate” would have it, the dent was right there on the top tube just below the nose of my saddle.

The dent is camouflaged by the small Campagnolo decal you see above. Having a small decal sitting in an unusual place just happens to be the lessor of two evils, as the dent just looks ugly.

The tandem had been resting up against my Park work stand where the contact point was the captain’s saddle, just as I’d done 100’s of times before without any problem. This time the tandem apparently rolled back when I wasn’t looking and as the saddle slipped off the work stand, the tandem fell against the work stand’s upright support with enough force to dent the top tube.

Oh well, as a wise teacher once said to me… “it’s just one of those things”. So, in that light I’m over it and movin’ on and will somehow grow to not mind my new decals.

The second incident happened on August 31, 2008 involving our Calfee which I also chronicled at in the follow slightly edited entry:

Well, it finally happened. I put the first scuff marks on the Calfee’s unpainted carbon frame this past weekend and, per Murphy’s Law, the marks were right smack-dab in the middle of my top tube. 

As it was with the dent that I put in the Erickson last June, it was one of those things where the tandem’s stoker bars were leaning up against a lally column in the garage when the tandem rolled backward causing the frame to come in contact with the column. On the bright side, the part of the column where it actually hit was padded to protect car-doors from getting nicked and dented. However, the padding stops about 2′ from the garage floor and it was the top tube sliding down against the steel column that created the scuff marks and scratches as the tires slid out from under the bike on the smooth concrete floor.

As you can see, you really can’t see the repair. I know where it is, because I had to fix it. Definitely a plus for composites!

While I was somewhat surprised at how soft the carbon was, I did find some comfort in recognizing I was still in better shape than I would have been had the frame been painted or clear-coated. Before following my instincts and ‘cleaning up’ the scuff marks on my own I double-checked with James at Calfee who confirmed it was rather straight forward. Fifteen minutes later, some light sanding with a fine-grit scuff pad followed up by some medium steel wool and then fine steel wool had removed 99% of the blemish. A little solvent to clean things up and then a healthy re-coating of the frame with UV protectant and its good as new.

The third and most recent incident happened on Wednesday, October 10, 2012 as I was getting things ready for our trip to the Southern Tandem Rally at St. Augustine, Florida:

I’d just gotten the triplet all squared away and ready to roll for STR, including the swap-out of the 39t middle chainring for a more appropriate 42t chainring, the associated readjustment of the front derailleur to compensate for the taller middle chain ring, and other minor adjustments.

My next project was getting the Calfee ready to go, which meant that I needed to get the triplet out of the way so I could get it into the work stand that was set up in between the two motorcycles in “the bike bay”, noting the middle bay had the truck in it and Debbie’s little S2000 was in the right bay.  So, I opted to move the triplet to the right bay and leaned it up against the garage door frame and a planter, well away from where I’d be working on the Calfee.

After getting the Calfee squared-away, I removed the wheels and put it into an older style Yakima tandem roof mount that I’d modified with a wooden base that allowed the Calfee to be tucked along one side of the Tundra’s covered bed with both wheels removed.  As I loaded my portable repair stand and spare wheel bag into the truck ahead of the Calfee I heard the unmistakable sound of the triplet falling over.

I actually felt worse for our painter — Hall Clarke — than I did personally. He put so much time and effort into making this frame look better than new. On the bright side, most people won’t notice it unless they happen to catch the dents in the right light, or go looking for frame imperfections.

I found the triplet almost on its side, with the internal tube just ahead of the first stoker’s seat post leaning up against the wooden planter and could see there was a lot of paint transfer on the paint. But, once I moved the triplet back into the bike bay with better lighting it was pretty clear there were at least two creases in the second internal tube, along with some potential paint damage. The paint damage was taken care of with some rubbing compound followed up by polishing compound and finishing glaze, but the dents were there to stay.

I’m not quite sure what the lesson learned here is, other than to make a point of “never” leaning a tandem up against anything in the garage without either the front or rear brake applied via a strap wrapped around a brake lever.  Yup, always use a parking brake.  Had I made that a regular part of my tandem maintenance routine from the git-go, none of these in-garage incidents would have taken place and our tandems would all still be dent and divot-free.

So, will I begin to use a strap around brakes from here on?  You know, I might actually do that…


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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4 Responses to Doh! Christening Tandems in the Garage….

  1. The AZ Mark... says:

    Well…..that all made me a little sick to my stomach…..

  2. Brian Warner says:

    Seems my bikes always fall over and attack a car. Like the time I was loading the MT800 at Tsali and dropped it on the roof of the Paciific. As luck would have it I dented and scratched the roof, two doors, and scratched two windows. The damage to the car was about 7K (thankfully it was a corporate vehicle, didn’t damage my insurance).

    BIke damage, well it was Tsali and there were already a few falls……

    • TG says:

      The triplet’s front timing ring & sync chain has left its mark on the top of the left rear passenger door of the Tundra but all-my fault for being obstinant and insisting on loading the thing by myself vs. enlisting help.

      But, the only real damage a bike has done to one of our cars was when my BMW R1100S decided to fall out of the front wheel chock / pit stand and landed up against the side of the Tundra, giving it some really nice dents that even our paintless dent repair guy couldn’t get out. To this day I”m still not sure why the BMW keeled over in the stand. I’ve since made a point of leaving the bike in gear and have never had a repeat occurance.

      Meh, they’re just machines… not garage queens or show pieces.

  3. Pingback: Southern Tandem Rally 2012, Part 1 of 2 « The TandemGeek's Blog

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