Three-Minute Tandem Overhaul… Yeah, Right.

File0956So, just how fast can a tandem’s existing shifting system & brakes be changed out?

Would you believe three minutes? No.

OK, would you believe three hours , but reduced to three minutes through the magic of video editing? Ok then.

However, unlike most of my videos where I cull 30 – 40 ‘clips’ from the hour or two of images collected over three or four hours that get spliced together to create a short video, this time I increased the playback speed by a factor of 10x so you can see almost the entire process in just about three minutes.  Yes, that’s a bit long for a stupid vanity video, but 15x gave me motion sickness and, well, who ever finishes an entire video on YouTube anyway.

For what it’s worth, in watching the video myself during the editing process and as a final product I was somewhat surprised at how often I went back and forth to the workbench when I was measuring, cutting and  filing the ends of the cable housing. Normally I’d just measure and cut all of the new cable housings against the hold ones, but with the different shifters and brakes having a slightly different cable routing path as well as a less flexible type of cable housing, that tried and true time-saver didn’t seem to be an option this time around. If I was doing this every day I’m sure it would have been a lot more efficient; heck, I even took out time to read the installation instructions!

So, here it is:

For anyone who may have missed the back story on why I had the opportunity to use one of my GoPro cameras to capture an overhaul, this past week I noted that our tandem’s shifting was becoming a bit spotty. All of the details are in a couple of blog entries; one that talks about what I was planning on changing and another on why I was really making the change.

To make a long story short, I haven’t fiddled with any of our bikes all year and our Calfee tandem hasn’t had any changes in four years, so it was time to scratch an itch and I decided to embark on a long-term test of Shimano’s Ultegra 6700/6703 series shifting system to see how it may have changed over the years.  We’ve been running Campy Ergo shifters on all of our road tandems and single bikes since 1997.  Our triplet came with Shimano Dura Ace STI triple and it’s actually performed pretty well.  And, seeing as the Shimano Ultegra is what most mid to premium-level production tandems are outfitted with now days, it seemed like a good time to test my objectivity.

Shimano-Ultegra-Schalt-Bremsgriffe-STI-ST-6700-ST-8a4c5cc8afe04e6adf35e344789c65b9I ordered the shifters from Jenson USA around 2:00am on Monday morning, along with new cables, housing, bar tape and in a subsequent order, a set of new caliper brakes.  I would have preferred to keep my lovely black Campy Record Skeleton brakes on the tandem but: (a) you can’t use Campy brakes with Shimano shifters as the brake release mechanism for Campy is in the lever, not on the brake as it is with Shimano; and, (b) the Campy brakes are due for new pads which can cost about 1/3 of what the new Ultegra brakes did, so why not.

gsgThere’s also an Ultegra 6700 rear derailleur on its way that was purchased on eBay, but it won’t arrive until Monday.  Yeah, best laid plans.  But, that turned out to be a non-issue since it rained all weekend (no need to finish the complete shifting change out) and because I still had an old M950 XTR rear derailleur sitting around that as it turned out, works just fine with the Ultegra 10-speed shifters and an XT 10-speed rear cassette.  Now, that all makes sense knowing what I know about Shimano shifting systems.  The rear derailleurs — at least the contemporary ones like the 9/9 speed M950 model, are slaves to the shifters. So, if the shifters match the cassette, the derailleur’s pull and movement should as well.

There’s a slight change in the idler & jockey wheel design, but since I don’t use Shimano chains I don’t think it really matters.  And, quite frankly, the M950 will have done what it needed to do by allowing me to complete the shifter installation / upgrade.  The Ultegra 6700 should be a plug and play with the M950 once it arrives.  But, that said, the old XTR rear derailleur still looks pretty slick.


In fact, the new shifters also look pretty slick and have a pretty beefy feel to them compared to my beloved Campy Ergo levers that I’ve used for so long.


So, it will be interesting to see how it all works once we get some dry weather and can hit the roads again.  No, I’m not feeling the love on the brake caliper finish, but it’s an experiment, right?  And there are some better looking 3rd party calipers out there on the market, right?  And if I really wanted to step up my brakes and tandem technology to current state I could just swap out the front fork for a tandem-rated, disc-compatible, fork and go dual-disc on the tandem.  Yeah, well… like I said, I’ll deal with the grey color for the time being.

More to follow once we get the Calfee back on the road.


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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