Making Our 12-Year Old Calfee Tandem New Again

Back on 3 February, I published an update wherein I discussed my recently completed swap-out of our old-school, polished aluminum da Vinci crank set for a set of carbon FSA SL-K Light MegaExo cranks as a possible solution to correct some front shifting issues we’ve been having with our Calfee tandem.  The change yielded the hoped-for improvement in front derailleur shifts. However, I found myself struggling a bit with how the tandem looked sporting the fat, dark carbon crank arms and bold graphics vs. the lovely polished aluminum da Vinci cranks that paired nicely with the minimalist white and yellow Calfee decals on our unpainted carbon tandem.

The unintended consequence of the crank change was being put on a path to update the graphics on our frame, something our friend Craig Calfee offered to do back in September 2018 when the frame was back at Calfee Designs in La Selva Beach, California, for a little touch-up work. With that in mind, I did a pseudo Photoshop study to see what our tandem might look like with a set of the bolder Calfee decals in a metallic silver color and liked what I saw.

This past Thursday, 13 February, I shot off a note to Craig to see about getting a set of decals and he passed my note to Jason who had them on their way the next day.  The cost  for the 13 decals — the eight I needed and five extras in case of an oops — including the shipping was very reasonable and they arrived via USPS on Monday, 17 February.

Before I could install the new decals the old ones had to come off.  I used “Goof Off” — essentially acetone — to dissolve and wipe-away the old polyvinyl, acetate based decals.  With the decals removed, there was still something of a shadow of the decals on the carbon. Per Craig’s direction, the shadows were easily removed with a light sanding using 220 grit sandpaper.

On Monday night I put the tandem and a work stand into the foyer so the tandem would be at room temperature on Tuesday when I installed the decals and to give me a warm place to work…

It was mid-morning on Tuesday, 18 February, when I got to work on installing the decals and it went off fairly well.  As mentioned I’d bought a few extra decals to ensure I had the ability to correct any errors or problems I had with the decal installation and ended up only using two of the five spares.

  • The first decal I applied was to the stoker’s seat post. The ‘C’ in California didn’t fully-bond to the frame and split in half as I peeled it away from the application sheet. Knowing that would be the first decal I’d apply, I definitely had a spare and definitely knew to spend more time making sure the decals were firmly affixed to the frame before pulling away the application sheet.
  • The second time I needed a spare was on the forks. While I was able to successfully apply both of the decals, the one on the right leg just didn’t line up exactly with the one on the left leg. So, I had a spare for that decal and used it.
  • Unfortunately, the decals I didn’t think would be problematic were the ones for the rear brake stays so I didn’t buy any spares. Sure enough, on one of the two decals the letter ‘C’ adhered itself to the backing sheet and simply pulled apart when I tried to transfer it to the application sheet.  So, I’ve had to ask the folks at Calfee to send another one.

Even with the one flawed decal I must say I’m really happy with how the frame looks sporting the new decals.  It’s as if we just took delivery of a shiny, new tandem!I remain ever so happy with our decision to omit a painted or clear-coated finish on our 2008 Calfee tandem for a variety of reasons.  It’s just hard to convey how durable the finish is, never mind how visually interesting the older unpainted carbon finish is.  And, if you do get a ding or a scratch in the frame they can easily be sanded-out.  If there is ever a need to repair or modify the frame it also makes it a lot easier to do, noting ours has been back to Calfee three times for tweaks and touch-ups.  Having had the ability to give it a cosmetic make-over for less than the cost of dinner out is yet another one.

However, for those who do own a ‘nude’ Calfee it really is important to keep a coating of Aerospace 303 on the frame to protect the raw carbon, epoxy and decals from UV rays.  I wrote a blog entry about this back in 2010 and, at least for the Calfee frames, unchecked UV light will cause exposed epoxy resin material to yellow and eventually cause the decals to dry-out and crack. These are purely cosmetic issues, not structural or long-term durability issues.  It’s worth noting, Aerospace 303 does give a raw carbon frame a slightly darker and semi-gloss like finish which looks really nice.  However, users should be sure to follow the application instructions and thoroughly wipe-down and buff-off any residual polymers that haven’t soaked into the material as the residual material will “run” when it gets wet, leaving streaks and spots all over the the place.  We saw this on Debbie’s S2000 when I used on the vinyl convertible top and would get nasty streaks all over the paint after rain fall.

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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3 Responses to Making Our 12-Year Old Calfee Tandem New Again

  1. Joe Marino says:

    That looks really nice Mark. It certainly freshened up the look of the bike.

    • TG says:

      Thanks Joe. As I said, none of this was really planned… it just sort of happened as one thing led to another. But, it really is amazing how “new” our beloved Calfee suddenly looks and the photos don’t do it justice.

  2. Dave Snope says:

    Looks great! An inexpensive way to get a “new” bike. How it looks is half the fun of having such a nice bike. Enjoy!

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