The Calfee Refresh: It’s Not About The Bike…

A reader — Dave — posted a comment to my ‘Calfee’s Getting New Shifters & Rear Derailleur… ‘ blog entry wherein he noted he’s had great success mating Campy shifters to a Shimano Cassette using a Shimano Ultegra rear derailleur and a Jtek shiftmate.  He went on to mention that this combination has outperformed a Campy + SRAM derailleur set-up and even works better than full Shimano or Campy equipped bikes he has ridden.  Screen Shot 2015-09-30 at 7.23.18 PMHmmm.

In responding I had to think back on all of the different configurations I’ve used, when I made the changes and why.  In doing that I also went back and checked a few past blog entries where I captured the details: yes, it’s all there.  Turns out, my assessment of “how long it’s been” since I made my last upgrades was grossly underestimated.

I had it in my mind that I’d made the last change over to the current Campy 10 + SRAM X.0 10- speed derailleur configuration just a couple years ago.  Yeah, well… make that over four years ago.  And, it just so happens, one of the major drivers for the shifting issues I was having back in May 2011 were related to a worn-out G-spring in the right-hand Campy Ergo shifter that controls the rear derailleur.

Son-of-a-gun, if that’s not what’s really behind the current, sloppy shifting on the Calfee. G-springsThe mileage on that G-spring at about 12,000 is about spot-on for how long a G-spring will last before shifting goes south. So, instead of doing a $300.00 “tune-up” on the shifters and rear derailleur, all I really needed to do was to take apart my right shifter and replace the $3.00 G-spring.  Really, that’s all and I’m pretty sure I knew that all along.  So…. what the hey??!!

As it says in the subject line, it’s not about the bike.  No, it’s about the bike’s owner and his well-worn G-spring.  As I said, I think I knew all along it was probably time to change out the Campy G-spring as well as the brake hood covers on our 10-speed Campy Record shifters. The brake hood cover has been sliding around for a few months — worn and stretched from wear — and the shifter feel has been mushy and imprecise.  Yes, the derailleur cables and housings are also due for replacement based on what I saw when I pulled the tandem apart to ship it off to Calfee.  But, where’s the joy in just replacing a few parts that are nearly invisible?  Yes, it’s all about the joy-factor and I’m guessing my subconscious need to fiddle and tweak got the better of me at 2:00am on Sunday night when I decided to go shopping for new shifters, derailleurs, cables, housing, etc.

In retrospect, I’ve been quite restless when it comes to our bikes. While a few bikes have come and gone from the stable and a few got upgrades, the Calfee tandem — the bike we ride the most — and our Calfee single bikes haven’t gotten any love over three years.  In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that I was just getting bored with our Calfee tandem.  It’s been years since I did any real experimentation and as noted, the last time I touched the shifting system with an eye towards “fixing something” was 2011.  The Calfee’s are all unpainted, so there’s no real joy that comes from a wash and UV protectant application.   In fact, it wasn’t long ago that I was talking with Debbie about sending the tandem frame back for a paint job, something I swore I’d never due to our lovely, nude Calfee frames.

It’s not that the Calfee hasn’t been a source of joy, it has. In fact, we take for granted just how great a tandem it has been, noting that it’s racked up more miles that we did on any of our previous tandems. As it nears its 9th birthday it has easily surpassed 30,000 miles of use and is as much fun to ride as it was when it was brand new. But, as a bike & tandem geek, I get a lot of my joy from trying new things and there hasn’t been anything new or different on the Calfee since that last rear derailleur change in 2011.

My surrogate source of tandem geekiness was the acquisition and make-over of our Precision Triplet in May 2012 . That was a fun project and, coincidentally, it gave us a much-needed shot-in-the-arm in terms of looking forward to rallies and weekend trips to Tennessee since it put the fun back into tandeming in a big way. It definitely scratched my itch for learning more about tandem cycling and also gave me a great way to stimulate the cycling economy when it needed it.


VLUU L310 W / Samsung L310 WIn 2013 I satisfied my need to fiddle with bicycles by acquiring a Dean Scout frame and doing a fresh build-out of it during March and putting myself on a two-year long drive to shed about 20lbs through a combination of diet and a return to off-road cycling. The hardtail was a blast to ride, but by July I was busy updating the shifting and brakes on my ’97 Ventana Marble Peak. Amazingly, the now 13-year old RockShok fork was still performing well after giving it a bit of a tune up.  Having the choice of a full-suspension or hardtail bike fitted with the same SRAM shifting and Avid disc brakes allowed me to select the right bike for the kind of workout I’d get.

marblepeak2 IMG_20130703_114534_813

In September 2014 it was the Ventana off-road tandem’s turn to get some love. New Avid disc brakes to replace the fatally flawed, Hope Enduro screaming meanies and a change-out of the handlebar and stem to give me a more upright riding position transformed the Ventana into a far more comfortable and enjoyable machine.

DSCN0490 DSCN0485
As if almost on queue and with the Calfee having already been torn apart so it could be sent off for repair as a catalyst, here I am in late September 2015 buying new parts for the Calfee so that it can also be ‘freshened-up’.  This will also be a great chance to reacquaint myself with Shimano’s STI system on a tandem as well as their brakes as explained in my prior blog entry.

framesSo, while a $3.00 G-spring would have most likely fixed the shifting on the tandem, yours truly would have most certainly remained restless and either built-up the Erickson Signature or Bianchi MegaExo TdF frames that have been stored away for quite a long time.

Something was going to happen… and soon!  And, by golly, it did.  By Friday I’ll have everything but the rear derailleur and can probably find a spare XTR rear derailleur to get us through the weekend on something other than the Calfee.


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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