Our weather was anything but conducive to a pleasant tandem ride today as heavy rain fell on and off from 9am until 3pm. And, if the weather’s hardly ideal for tandem cycling, it’s also not a good day for a recreational motorcycle ride either.
Since I was otherwise sequestered at home, I spend the better part of the morning running expense analysis and obtaining health care insurance quotes to figure out if we’ll truly be able to go into at least semi-retirement at the end of the year. Yeah, that’s some sobering stuff to be sure: about $15,000/year for health + long term care and rising fast. So, we’ll see if Plan A holds up or if we’ll have to spend a few more years stacking chips. But I digress…
With the cheery business of retirement cost analysis behind me I decided to go out and give our Calfee tandem a little love in the form of new chains. I’d been keeping a close eye on the chain wear and after last week’s PEACHES ride decided I’d probably gotten about as much life out of them as I could before the chain rings and cassette cogs would begin to wear. Personally, I find it far more economical to throw away $30 chains than to add the cost of a new cassette and chain rings to that chain replacement cost.
Incidentally, let me take a minute to plug “the mother of all tandem maintenance blog entries” that I penned for the Tandem Club of America’s blog last February. It covers just about everything I could think of when it comes to tandem maintenance. I really do follow my own advice, albeit at a somewhat reduced pace in that no single bike in our fleet — except perhaps the Calfee tandem and Debbie’s single Calfee Luna Pro — to warrant the complete annual tune-up.
There weren’t any surprises with the chain replacements. Both chains showed different amounts of wear in different places around each chain, but for the most part the average wear was scoring a 75% on my Park chain checker tool. 2.5 new chains were pulled out of the parts drawer (I tend to stock up and when work down my on-hand inventory so that I’m never without), thrown into a container filled with solvent to strip off the factory lubricants, then into a citrus bath to neutralize and strip off the solvent residue. After that, it was a cold water rinse and into the cold Fry Daddy where they’d sink into a hot melt wax bath and be heated up along with the wax, lest there be an explosion of hot wax if the cold wet chains were tossed into the hot wax.
With the chains cooking I turned my attention to the rest of the tandem, giving it a good once over before hitting the derailleurs, cassette and chain rings a hit of citrus cleaner before a wash down.
Imagine my surprise when I looked at the handlebars and noticed a crack across the top of my now 7-year old Thomson X2 road stem. No way this was a scratch; it was clearly a crack and a new one at that. I say this because my Garmin 705 Edge goes on the stem so the stem is something I look at before every ride.
Further investigation confirmed the stem had cracked all the way through, where the point of origin appeared to be at the back-end of the upper bolt hole.
I must say, I never expected to see an aluminum stem clamped around a composite handlebar fail, never mind a Thomson stem. You would normally expect the composite to be the weak link.
Fortunately, I happened to have a couple spare Ritchey stems on hand so the Thomson was quickly replaced in the event that a ride opportunity comes up before a Thomson replacement stem shows up, although I may go with an X4 (4 bolt) model this time around.
Anyway, that was my excitement for the day and an ever-present reminder of how important it is to keep an eye on your tandem and bikes for new creaks, squeaks and anything that could be an emerging crack in a critical place, like a stem!