Even though I haven’t been posting much to The TandemGeek’s Blog over the past few months I still try to add snippets to let you — our readers — know that we continue to get out and ride on the weekends, reserving Saturdays for the road tandem and Sundays for the off-road tandem. Of course, things like our trip to Key West can keep us off the bike and the weather has yet again become a factor as the dog days of summer bring with them pop-up thundershowers here in the South.
What prompted this blog entry were some thoughts I had while out riding solo on my road bike this past Sunday. While there’s nothing I enjoy more than riding with Debbie, be it on a tandem or a motorcycle, I also find a different kind of enjoyment when I get some alone time on a bike.
Now, to be completely candid, Debbie and I do not do a lot of talking when we’re out riding together so it’s almost equally quiet as when I’m riding alone. But, the ride tempo is a bit different and I don’t have the added responsibility that goes along with making sure you do everything in your power to keep your tandem cycling partner safe: it makes for a huge difference in terms of the reduced mental task load. Curiously enough, the actual mechanical act of riding the tandem doesn’t really add any task load whatsoever… in fact, it’s very hard to tell the difference. That may say more about how well suited we are to our Calfee tandem and just how clean Miss Debbie rides than anything else.
However, what stuck out in my mind on this ride was how alien the Campy shifters on my single road bike felt after riding our Shimano STI-equipped road tandem and triplet for the past several weeks. Mind you, for years I made a point of having all of my road bikes fitted with Campy Ergo shifters so there wouldn’t be any cross-over issues with shifting by rote and muscle memory on those shift movements.
However, when we added the triplet to the fleet I decided to leave the Shimano DuraAce STI shifting on the bike as we’d only ride it a few times a year making the added expense of a grouppo change hard to justify. As it turns out, adapting to the STI on the triplet was relatively easy.
Regular readers will also recall that last October I decided to convert our Calfee tandem from one equipped with Campy shifters, derailleurs and brakes to STI just so I could see how different the systems had become. After all, it’s kind of hard to be a “tandem geek” if you don’t try to keep up with the technology.
As it turned out, the Shimano STI was very easy to adapt to and using it had become second nature after several weekend rides and a couple tandem rallies, one ridden on the STI-equipped tandem in Alabama and another on the STI-equipped triplet in Georgia.
However, imagine my surprise when I headed out on my ride this past Saturday and found that it was converting back to Campy that was confusing. In fact, instead of triggering my memory and quickly re-adapting as I rode I found I was still having to think about which lever to push in which direction well into the ride. It was truly was disconcerting to have as much trouble as I did, particularly since I’ve always maintained (and still believe) the Campy Ergo shift lever positions and movements are more intuitive. Sadly, Sunday’s experience did not prove this out!
Well, while I’m not going to run out and convert the rest of my road bikes to Shimano STI, I will remain ever mindful why “keeping them all the same” was actually a pretty good idea. After all, with as many things that demand your attention while you’re out sharing the road with motorists, the last thing you want to actively think about how is how the shifters on your bike work!