Playing in the Dirt / Weeknight Rides / Squeaks & Creaks

Playing in the Dirt Again!

My apologies to anyone who is also a RidingTwoUp blog follower, as this first snippet is a Reader’s Digest version of something I originally included in my weekend update. However, it’s clearly something that fits well here on the TandemGeek’s Blog, so here tis.

As long-timer tandem cycling friends may know, we did a lot of off-road tandem riding back in the late 90’s / early 2000’s.


However, we had a few group rides where the terrain and tempo of the ride became a bit too edgy for Debbie and that pretty much curtailed future off-road tandem rides for several years. We’d give it a try every couple of years, but the anxiety remained high and kept us from getting back into a regular off-road riding regime that could have helped to rebuild the trust and confidence she’d need to overcome the fear of a fall. So, you can imagine how excited I became when she volunteered that she’d give it another shot as my Father’s Day gift. Suffices to say, we had a blast!

20160619_121057We rode two of the intermediate skill level trails and had only one or two dabs. I banged my left knee against the left handlebar end on one of the dabs, but thankfully I was able to ensure Debbie was unscathed and in very good spirits after our 15 or so miles of trail riding. It probably helped that I didn’t try to push the pace too hard, noting my skills piloting our off-road tandem were a bit rusty. But, there were a few other things that helped to get Debbie back in the grove including just the sheer fun and joy that comes from riding a mountain bike on single track in deeply wooded terrain and, of course, the comments and attention an off-road tandem can generate when other cyclists see it out on the trail… and there was a good bit of that.

After the ride Miss Debbie said she’d forgotten just how much she enjoyed being out in the woods on the tandem and suggested we put tandem mountain bike riding back into our weekend riding regime! So, we’ll see if that comes to pass. We’ll only be in town for one more weekend before we head out-of-town for the following two weekends and, sadly, the rainy weather outlook suggests our local trails may end up being closed on this coming Sunday. Here’s hoping the enthusiasm gained on Sunday doesn’t wain too much until we can do it again. In the interim I plan to ride the trails on my single bike as much as possible to see if I can’t remove some of the rust from my skills. I think I’m still pretty competent and confident, but a little more trail time can’t hurt.

OMG, our Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas is 14 years old!

57806133_76df4d50eb_oIt’s hard to believe, but it was 14 years ago this past April that we took delivery of our 2002 Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas (ECdM). It was our second ECdM and the first tandem sold by our friend Alex Nutt’s fledgling off-road tandem specialty shop, However, the realization that it was 14 years old came as something of a shock to me, as it certainly didn’t seem like it had been that long ago that Alex & Kim dropped it off at the house. It’s received a couple component updates over the years, most recently being new Avid BB7 brakes and a major adjustment to my handlebars and bar positioning. However, there were a couple of things that I didn’t refresh and that are now demanding some attention.

  • Tires: As I discovered with both of my single mountain bikes earlier this year, tires don’t last forever and the rubber on our Ventana El Conquistador de Montanas (ECdM) is definitely beyond its shelf life in addition to having lack of grip issues they shed several chunks of tread on Sunday’s ride. So, I’m now surveying current ECdM owners here in the southeast that ride in similar conditions what model and width tires they’ve been happy with and will try to have fresh rubber on for our next ride.
  • Shock Seals: Yes, the Stratos S6 fork on our ECdM is also 14 years old and I’m not sure if I should be impressed or ashamed that one of the fork seals has just now started to leak. I’d like to think it was my impeccable care that extended the life of the seals but the truth of the matter is, the darn bike has so few miles that it’s no wonder the seals lasted as long as they did. I’m hoping a local motorcycle and off-road bicycle shock specialist can find and install replacement seals to give the fork a new lease on life.

Mid-Week Riding

Debbie’s Back on the Road: In addition to getting out and riding on the weekends, with Daylight Savings, warmer temps and dry weather upon us Miss Debbie has finally been able to start getting out for a 25-mile road ride in the evenings during the work week. It’s something she really enjoys but wasn’t able to do on a regular basis over the last couple years. She was able to get out 2 or 3 times a week in late May and early June and has gone 3 for 3 / 75 miles this week. She’s hoping to break the 100 mile mark tonight (Thursday). She even picked up a ride-buddy last evening when a gal named Becky who lives in the neighborhood asked if she could join Debbie for her evening ride. It was a mixed blessing in that Becky probably helped push Debbie to ride harder than she might otherwise do alone, but it also made her push herself a bit more than she should have for a variety of reasons that I won’t delve into. It will be interesting to see how this plays out as the other gal is about 20-years Debbie’s junior who runs & rides with her husband and is training for an Ironman event. Yeah, that’s pretty much off the charts in our humble riding regime.

20160622_190602Mark’s Playing in the Dirt: As I may have mentioned in the past, I’ve lost my love of road riding in the evenings after work as I simply find motorists to be a constant source stress during what should be a stress-relieving activity. Therefore, “happy hour” for me is getting out to the local trail head at the Allatoona Creek Mountain Bike Park a mere 5 miles or so from our home and putting in 10-15 miles of single track. I was doing well at getting in one or two rides a week through mid-May when I had a little on-trail crash a week before the Georgia Tandem Rally that left me with a very sore and deeply-bruised right hip. Last Thursday was my first time back on the trail in a month and it felt good. I’ve been out three nights this week, but may take the night off as riding the hardtail instead of the full suspension bike on the heavily rooted and rutted trails has left my back feeling a bit beat-up. Regardless, it has been wonderful getting in some rides during the week vs. only the weekend and I hope to keep it up all summer long and into next fall. Sadly, our local trails are closed to cyclists during bow hunting season in November & December, but come January we’re back in business.

Squeaks & Creaks: Nip it in the bud!

nipitI was reminded once again on my Tuesday and Wednesday night rides why you want to pay attention and quickly remedy any noises that your bikes and tandems develop, during the ride if at all possible. After all, if you started out riding a bike that was quiet and then you suddenly realize it’s making noises, something has probably come loose, gone out of adjustment, gotten picked up by the bike or broken. Going out of adjustment seems to be a common issue with tandems but not something I experience on my single road or off-road bikes. Creaks, on the other hand, seem to afflict just about any bike.

On Tuesday I suddenly noticed a very pronounced creak coming from my Dean hardtail mountain bike. It took three attempts to find and solve:

  • First thought was I’d not tightened the front wheels’ quick release enough since the creak wasn’t present on Monday while I was out riding. However, tightening the skewer did nothing.
  • My next area of focus was the stem. I re-adjusted the pre-load on the headset, tightened the stem’s steerer tube & handlebar fixing bolts and that too failed to eliminate the noise.
  • After riding a few hundred yards and ruling out the bottom bracket and cranks I decided to re-tighten the seat post clamp. Sure enough, that was it.

As soon as I’d found the source of the noise and vanquished it the enjoyment of my ride significantly increased since I was no longer being distracted by a mechanical noise that shouldn’t have been there.

On Wednesday I found myself being drawn into the Advanced section of a loop where I rode some of the ladder bridges, skinny’s and ramps and dropped a rear wheel where a skinny transitioned to a bridge at a corner. I didn’t go down, but it was a pretty abrupt jolt to me and the bike when the rear wheel was immediately stopped as it hit the front edge of the ladder bridge. After getting myself back on the bridge and then onto the trail I started hearing brake noise that wasn’t there before. I stopped the bike and checked the front wheel: sure enough, it had shifted slightly in the drop-out and the front rotor was dragging on the caliper: yes, even with lawyer lips there’s a little slop. A quick adjustment to fully re-seat the front wheel and I was good-to-go… or was I? Sure enough, as soon as I got underway I could still hear and feel some type of wheel drag. Stopping again I checked the rear wheel and brake and son-of-a-gun a small twig had become lodged between the caliper’s brake pads and rotor. After extracting it and also making sure the rear wheel was fully re-seated I was on my way and rewarded by a once-again quiet running bicycle.

Anyway, just something to think about. I’m definitely one of those people who are very sensitive to noise and feel so when something’s amiss I usually detect it immediately. However, I know for a fact there are people who simply don’t take notice of new noises or emerging issues: in fact, I’m married to one! I love her to death-till-us-part, but am often times amazed to find her car is in serious need of attention when I’ll occasionally jump in it to run an errand or will see things on her bike that need adjustment. When asked about these things, nada…


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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