Tandem Tech & Equipment: In Praise of Conventional Wheels

I can honestly say it was really nice riding on our 36°conventional wheelset during last Sunday’s 65-mile Tour de Cure event.  Nice, because (a) they delivered a great ride and (b) I never gave them a second thought.
SDC11228While conventional wheels still have their issues — most of which these days are associated with folks building wheels for tandems who really don’t know how to build tandem wheels — by and large they tend to be rock solid, dependable and deliver 10’s of thousands of trouble-free miles when they are built by a tandem pro.

The wheels on our Calfee were built by the late John Kovachi here in Marietta, Georgia.  Sadly, John passed back in Oct 2011 at the very young age of 48; he was an icon in the local cycling and national BMX world.  He built a total of four wheelsets for us over the years and with easily over 20,000 miles on those wheels none of them has ever gone out of true or had any other issues. I wish I could say the same about all of my wheel builds.  I  got pretty good at it, but after struggling with a wheelset several years back I decided to go with the pros for our tandem wheels.

Speaking of which, I’ve got to throw out a big thank you to Mel Kornbluh at Tandems East who just built up a new set of wheels for our triplet. Despite being slammed with other work, Mel worked us in and delivered an awesome set of White Ind / Velocity Dyads for our Precision Triplet in no-time at all such that we were ready to roll on those new hoops at last weekend’s Georgia Tandem Rally.

SDC11226The only thing I had to do was remove the yellow & red rim decals, throw on some tires, a disc rotor, cassette and skewers and we were really to roll!  And boy did they roll… not so much as a squeak or peep out of the spokes on the first ride!  That, my friends, is impressive.  It’s not often that you throw a brand new set of freshly built tandem wheels on a tandem with 400lbs of riders and not hear at least a couple spokes unwind with a slight “tink”.  Not so with Mel’s wheels.

Therefore, and just like our Calfee on Sunday, it was really nice riding on our 40°/48° conventional wheelset on Friday & Saturday at GTR.  Nice, because (a) they delivered a great ride and (b) I never gave them a second thought.

SDC11224So, does this mean Team Livingood is done dabbling with boutique wheelsets? Perhaps.  There is always part of me that likes to learn more about some of the newer offerings.  However, given the cost of our 4-year experiment including the now retired Topolinos, I’m not sure how quickly I’m jump in to another $$ wheelset just for sh*ts and giggles.

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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?
This entry was posted in Advice & Commentary, Pimpin' for our Friends, Shameless Promotions, Tandem Folks, Tandem Rallies, Technology & Equip.. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Tandem Tech & Equipment: In Praise of Conventional Wheels

  1. cbratina says:

    I agree that standard wheels are much more reliable, and it is questionable how much slower they are. We have been riding White Industries hubs with Velocity Deep Vs, 36 rear and 30 front for three years and 10,000 mile including cycle touring through New England, Quebec, and Europe with an extra 24 lbs. We weight about 310 lbs.

    • TG says:

      I’m a firm believer in that — with perhaps the exception of the most elite-levels of competition — equipment that is properly fitted and comfortable over the long-haul will always yield consistent performance improvements.

  2. J-P Chamberland says:

    Since getting our first tandem less than 2 years ago (August 2011) I have been an avid reader of your posts as a source of information. Leaving in the Northwest (Seattle), where road conditions are not that good, I am still happy with the stock wheels that came with our Co-Motion Torpedo. We rode more than 7000 miles since getting our tandem without any issues to report.

    Based on tandems pictures I saw on your posts, it looks as if your stoker handlebars all have drops (i.e.: normal race bake handlebar). I searched for posts that would discuss the pros and cons and did not find any. I would be curious to know what made you decide to use those handlebars for the stoker.

    Thanks again for all the interesting posting.

    • TG says:

      WRT to the drop vs. bull horn bars, Debbie’s first experience on a road bicycle was on our ’95/96 Santana Arriva which came with drop-bars. She quickly adapted to the drop bars — albeit ones that were proportionately more narrow — and eventually began to ride her own single road bike, also equipped with drop bars. She’s tried the bull horns, but did not like the typically wider bars that come fitted to tandems and she missed having her brake hoods, drops and other hand positions.

      So, bottom line is as always: make sure your stoker knows what the options are, has a chance to try both and then gets to pick which one’s they prefer.

      The pros and cons beyond personal preference / hand positions are pretty straight forward: bull horn bars are both less expensive and put less weight on a tandem than do drop bars with stoker rests.

      Thanks for your kind words; glad the blog and other writings have been of value to you!

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