Kiddie BSO’s… that would be Bicycle Shaped Objects.

Sadly, we’ve not been out on the tandem since late October.  Our weather has been cold and wet and nothing but cold and wet ever since.  In fact, I’ve only gotten out on my single bike once in that same time.  Pretty sure it’s time to set up a bike on the Erollers or CycleOps Fluid II.  Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m having issues with my left knee which is now showing signs of Crepitus.  I’ll try to work through it with exercise and supplements during the winter but it may need to have a look-see by a ortho.  But, that’s not what this entry is about…

No, this journal entry is all about those wonderful little kiddie bikes that parents are always compelled to buy for their little ones at Christmas as they reach the age of 4.  And, this year it was little Miss Vivian’s turn to get her 1st bicycle.

The model our son and daughter-in-law bought for Vivian was clearly selected for its non-technical features which, quite frankly, are apparently inconsequential for 3-6 year old’s 1st bicycles.  No, the really important thing is making sure you find the right Disney-licensed character theme and Vivian’s favorite Disney character is Minnie Mouse.

So, the logical choice for the 1st bicycle was Huffy’s Minnie Mouse Happy Helpers bicycle with training wheels.  I’m not sure where they bought it, but they sell for between $107 and $149 and “adult assembly” is required.  It was brought over to our house so as to keep it out of sight from Vivian and, like a good granddad, I volunteered to do the assembly as I know our son Wesley is more than swamped with work and taking care of the older girls while Julie tends to Scarlett, their 2-month old newborn.

So, here’s the deal: I have no idea how the average dad assembles one of these bicycle-shaped objects.  No, no… I didn’t buy this. It’s from Santa, i.e., our son Wesley. To his credit, there aren’t many other options out there for kiddie bikes so you go with what’s available and what you believe your child will find attractive and enticing enough to embrace.  As they get older the quality of the bike options get better such that his oldest is at least now riding a fairly good Trek. But, let’s get back to the Happy Helper, shall we?

Looking at the tape-sealed box, I immediately suspected this was a bike someone bought, took out of the box and then decided to return. Once I opened the box my suspicions looked to be about right. There was definitely evidence the bike had been pulled out of the box, but never assembled. And, had it been me who bought this particular bike, I’d have done likewise.  But, seeing it was December 22nd, trying to exchange what is likely a sold-out model was a non-starter.  So, it was now my duty to make the Happy Helper as good as it could be and that’s what I set out to do.

Given the small size of the bike, I didn’t even have a spare seat post that was small enough to let me put the bike in my workstand to assemble.  And, given how much-needed to be “worked on” to get the bike into a rideable condition, it really needed to be in the workstand. But, I made do with what I had to work with.

The clearly visible issues included:

  • A screwed-up headset that had been over-torqued when it was assembled for shipping.
  • A fork that was 2cm too wide for the front axle.
  • No grease on the headset bearings; just a splash of lightweight oil.
  • A pseudo front brake caliper that had misaligned arms and a variety of other issues rendering it useless which — given this is a coaster brake-equipped kiddie bike — is redundant.
  • A plastic purse where the plastic hinge-mounted door was now detached.

It took me about 30 minutes of wrenching, bending and adding lubricants to bearings so the Happy Helper would be “good enough” for Miss Vivian. And, relative to having the average adult doing the assembly, it took about every measure of my many years of bicycle mechanic experience and several bicycle specific tools and materials to fix this thing.

As mentioned, when the bike was assembled for shipment with the fork turned at a right angle, the headset adjusting nut had been over-torqued and the index tab on the headset washer was jammed in the threads instead of in the channel before the fixing nut was screwed on and also over-torqued.  So, job #1 was getting the fixing nut off. It was with that nut off I discovered the headset washer’s index tab was mashed into the threads on the steerer tube instead of sitting in the steerer’s index tab channel. So, I had to use a punch and plastic hammer to coax the washer’s index tab back into the channel so I could get it off the steerer tube. With the washer off, now came getting the over-torqed headset adjusting cap loose, noting it lacked wrench flats and was something intended to be hand-tightened.  With much gusto it finally budged and I was able to remove it from the steerer, albeit with a lot of binding where the index tab had buggered up the threads in the steerer as it was driven down the tube outside of the index channel.  With the headset cap removed, it was pretty clear the bearings had not been properly lubricated, only given a slash of light oil so they received a light coating of teflon bearing grease before I reassembled and adjusted the tension on the headset so the front fork could move freely without slop or binding.

Next up was the front wheel installation.  Well, the fork blade ends were at least 2cm too wide for the front axle so I had to jockey-around the tabbed washers and add a second set of washers to minimize the cold-set bend of the short and stout fork blades. Again, getting back to the average adult doing the assembly, I’m not sure they would have recognized the need to use a set of cone wrenches on each pair of nuts that hold the fork ends while also pre-loading the bearings so as not to unscrew the opposite side nuts on the axle while tightening the other side.

With the wheel now installed, the extent of the problems with the front brake became evident.  But, hey, let’s be honest: there’s no reason to have a hand lever operated front brake on a 3-6 year old’s coaster-brake equipped kiddie bike.  Yes, it looks like an adult bike with that brake added, but even once properly adjusted the darn thing won’t work because it had rock-hard plastic “brake pads” and glossy black paint on the rim’s brake track, massive brake arm deflection under load and, well, the brake lever is too big and too hard to pull for a 3-year old.  But, be that as it may, since it was on the bike I had to make sure it worked as well as it could.  To do that required using a pair of adjustable wrenches as levers so I could bend the lower brake pad mounting flange without bending the upper part of the caliper arm so the brake pad would be parallel with the rim when the brake was operated.  The brake pads were chamfered to fall flat on the rim’s angled surfaces which was, in itself, prima-facia evidence that the front wheel was never designed to work with a front caliper-operated hand brake: brake tracks need to be parallel with each other!  Again, my job was to make it all work so I pressed ahead, connecting the brake caliper to the hand lever and then spent a good couple minutes using a 14mm flat wrench (not something your average adult will have in their tool box) to align the front brake so both arms would move correctly and contact the rim surfaces at the same time while applying torque to the fixing nut on the backside of the front caliper center bolt.  So, even though it’s ineffective to the point of being useless, the front brake caliper is about as good as I can make it.

Amazingly, even the cheap plastic “purse” that was stuck on the front of the handlebars to pretty-up the bike was even screwed up.  It has a small door that pivots on two plastic, molded-in pins and son-of-a-gun if the door hadn’t popped off of those pins.  Well, let me tell you, getting that door back on those pins was no small feat.  And, I’m guessing that door will pop-off again in short order.

There were several other “nits” that needed adjusting and a few things I just let go “as is” since they’ll likely loosen up over time and the bike will not ever be used enough to wear anything out before Vivian outgrows it in a year or two.  Hell, it may even be in good enough shape for Scarlett when she turns 3!




Posted in Technology & Equip., Whimsical Or Entertaining | 6 Comments

October & November GoPro Captures:

Saturday, 6 October Captures.

I previously posted our video captures from 2 October back on 3 October because it was just too chaotic not to share right away vs. waiting until the end of the month.   As it turned out, we only got out on the tandem at home one more time during the month of October on Saturday, 6 October.  The rest of the month was consumed by a combination of urgent family matters including Debbie’s loss of a close family member, travel to Venice Florida for the Southern Tandem Rally on 11-14 October, travel to Daytona Florida on 17-21 October for Biketoberfest, a visitation and funeral on 22 & 23 October, and then a combination of bad weather and the birth of another granddaughter on 30 October took care of the balance of the month.  So, the follow represents the balance of our October encounters, which all occurred on 6 October:

1st encounter: Black Infinity sedan with GA tag BFK2570.  Like a lot of motorists, they aren’t willing to wait a few seconds for on-coming traffic to clear before making their pass, putting the other motorist and us at risk of being involved in a head-on collision or being run off the road / hit by an evasive maneuver by the passing motorist to avoid a collision should they mis-judge the closing speed.

2nd encounter: White Infinity coupe with GA tag REB0975.  Same as with the 1st encounter, motorist in a “hurry” which is to stay not willing to be delayed a few seconds who caused an on-coming car to come to a near stop.  Of course, it’s the cyclist’s fault since they shouldn’t be on the road… not the driver’s poor judgement, lack of patient or poor motoring skills.

3rd encounter: Green 2nd Gen Toyota 4Runner, GA tag unreadable.  Surprise, surprise. Same as the first two encounters. 

4th encounter: Cobb County Police Cruiser.   I’m sorry, but here we have a Cobb County Police cruiser parked in the pedestrian crosswalk at a school shooting radar.  What made me notice this was the jogger who had to run around the police cruiser because he was parked in the pedestrian crosswalk.  Talk about either a sense of being entitled to apply a double-standard or just being oblivious to their own poor motoring skills in the name of law enforcement.  Yeah, I get that it’s a “good place” to catch speeders and Lord knows, motorists need to slow the hell down on our secondary roads… people doing 55mph in 35 mph zones is “normal” and 60+ mph in 45 mph is not uncommon either.

5th encounter: White Chevy Suburban, GA tag unreadable because they were going too fast and I turned my head.  This soccer mom in her 5,900lb Suburban came flying by at well over the posted speed limit and then slammed on her brakes as soon as she was back in the lane so she could pass us, causing the on-coming truck to come to a near stop to avoid a collision.

6th encounter: Silver 2005 Chrysler Town & Country minivan with GA tag AAJ1664.  Given we have a fairly side set of lanes here on Acworth Due West Road, this wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  But, here again, we have a motorist making a pass with on-coming traffic.  What is it that makes motorists who think nothing about sitting at stoplights for one to three minutes, killing idle time spending hours on social media, and being queued up sitting at school’s waiting to pick up their kids because it’s not safe enough for them to walk or ride a bike less than a mile to their school since they’re too close for bus service.

18 November Encounters:

Similar to end of October, cold and damp or rainy weather has kept us off the tandem for most of November.  However, the weather gods shined upon us this weekend and gave us a couple of days that were warm enough for Miss Debbie to join me on the tandem for a ride.  I should probably note, I’ve been out riding on my single bike but opted to not use the cameras since Miss Debbie wasn’t along.  I guess I consider riding with Miss Debbie to be a bit more of a higher risk to warrant having the cameras on my helmet as a potential deterrent to exhibitions of bad motoring skills and/or evidence in the event we are involved in an accident.  If it’s just me, I’ll still have Miss Debbie to take care of me and/or she’ll be taken care of financially in perpetuity so no cameras.  After the 18 November encounters and one in particular, I may rethink my position.  Anyway, here’s what the cameras captured on Saturday afternoon, the 18th of November.

Encounter #1: Silver Toyota RAV4, GA tag unreadable.  This guy blew by us doing 55+ mph in the 35mph zone so as not to have to wait until on-coming traffic cleared.  As you can see, as soon as he was clear of us and with another speeding motorist coming the other way he was hard on the brakes as he moved back into the through lane.  Mind you, this is 200 yards after we turned out of our community onto our loop ride.

Encounter #2: Black Chevy Silverado 1500with GA tag BNE 3207 pulling fishing boat with GA Reg. GA 05553 PR.  This guy came up behind us in a hurry on Old Stilesboro Road but failed to get past us before the intersection.  However, as soon as he turned onto Acworth Due West road he was wide-open-throttle to get around us, driving well into the hashed median area to make his pass.  Normally, that would have been fine and given us plenty of room… except he was towing a damn boat!  So, we were treated to a nice, up close and personal view of his fishing boat as he began to move back into the lane well before the boat and trailer were clear of us.

Encounter #3: Terra Partners Logistics / FedEx Contractor delivery truck with USDOT Reg. 265752, possibly GA tag RPW5266.  Let me say right up front that we like our FedEx delivery guy, and he’s been servicing our neighborhood for several years.  However, that said, I’d have to say that FedEx has some of the worst drivers — over the road and local delivery — that I’ve ever encountered.  The over-the-road drivers routinely sit in the fast lane when there’s no reason for them to be there, often times pacing other trucks and tying-up traffic for several hundred yards. The local route drivers, OMG: some of the stuff I’ve seen them doing.  So, here we go: while he gave us plenty of safe passing distance — which I truly appreciate —  he made his pass even though there was a car coming the other way… and he was in no particular hurry to get back into his own lane which caused the other driver to come to a near stop.

Counter #4: Black Ford F150 / STX with tag hidden by load.  If memory serves, just about every time we ride we have at least one motorist who makes a pass on what is mostly a blind curve betting that they can make the hashed median before they end up coming head-to-head with an on-coming car, and most of them don’t make it causing the on-coming motorist to take some type of evasive action.  Today was no exception, as we had this guy hauling 12′ long sheet rock in his 5’6″ bed with the tailgate down try to power by instead of waiting a few seconds until he could actually see traffic ahead and make a safe pass.  Yeah, you’re going to be unloading sheet rock for a good 15 minutes, so it’s important to put other drivers at risk or at least to share the bejeezus out of them to save 15 seconds.

Encounter #5: Burgundy Toyota Sienna XLS with unreadable GA Tag.  As you can see from the yellow warning sign, this is a blind curve on a hill.   Once you get past this corner you can see a good 1/2 mile up the road, but that would have taken this motorist an extra few moments on a Saturday afternoon so, instead, they decided to make their pass and HOPE there wasn’t a car coming around the blind curve.

Encounter #6: 2016 or 2017 Burgundy Chevrolet Equinox LT with Georgia Racing Hall of Fame vanity plate RQ318.  This gentleman came up behind another car that had a cautious driver who didn’t want to pass on a hill with several blind curves but was in such a hurry that he felt compelled to toot his horn at the other driver in an effort to get them to move along, or at least that was my assumption.  It could have also been the driver of the white Audi letting us know he was back there with two taps of the trumpet horns.  Mind you, hardly anyone uses a horn here in Georgia… I mean, it’s really rare.  After the driver in the white Audi in front of the maroon Chevy Equinox finally felt that it was safe to pass he did so and gave us plenty of room; thank you sir!   Mr. impatient came up behind us and sat right on our back wheel until he ‘thought’ it was clear enough to pass, even though it really wasn’t because his view had been blocked by a white Cadillac Escalade as well as a blind curve in the shadows. Sure enough as he passed as close to us as he could, up ahead was on on-coming car that had to drive off the road as he made his pass.  and, if that weren’t enough, he felt the need to toot his horn again when he was right along side us and whether intentional or not, he also swerved slightly right at that same moment…. something I assumed to be an over act of intimidation.  In fact, this encounter bothered so much that in addition to expanding into a video linked below, I also reported the incident to the Cobb County Police and sent them a link to the video.  We’ll see what, if anything, comes of that.

Encounter #6: Maroon Chevrolet Malibu with GA tag BFK4780.  As we’re getting ready to turn onto the home stretch, Debbie extends her left arm and clearly motions to indicate we will be taking the lane and moving into the left turn lane.  The motorist in this car — an elderly man in a plaid shirt — could have cared-less and instead of yielding, move into the hashed median area to overtake us a we were moving across the lane.  Again, note that we gave him plenty of advanced notice. Instead of yielding, he pressed his case and sped past us into the left turn lane, essentially cutting us off.  Thanks for that…


As you have probably observed on your own — noting these video captures are merely confirmation not anything new —  there are just too many motorists of all ages, incomes, gender, political affiliation, etc., who just don’t have a clue how to share the road nor any interest in accommodating other road users because they’re all “in a hurry” and don’t want to be bothered to take a breath and yield for a moment.  And, here’s the rub… I bet these are all good and decent people when they’re not behind the wheel of a car.  Of course, this isn’t anything new.   Here’s a link to a 6-minute long, 1950 Disney animated feature called Goofy Motor Mania that captured the metamorphosis that takes place when an otherwise nice person gets behind the wheel of a car. It’s entertaining but also spot on in many cases.

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So, We Rode the Tandem on Saturday…

It was around 2:00pm on Saturday when the temperatures finally reached the 60’s so we could head out on the tandem for a 14-mile “spin” just to test our legs, remembering it had been a month since we’d last ridden the big bike together.

It felt cool, to be sure but it also felt good to be back on the tandem.  As usual, we had more than our fair share of motorists passing far too closely than need be or at the wrong time and forcing on-coming traffic to slow to a near stop. In fact, we had one motorist who did both and in a very aggressive manner which prompted me to create a video of the encounter that I reported to the Cobb County Police.  We’ll see if anything comes of that; I’m not holding my breath.

Debbie declined my offer of an afternoon tandem ride on Sunday, but she encouraged me to go ahead and get out on one of my single bikes.  I did just that and decided I’d give the Erickson its first shake down ride after changing out the stem and saddle.

I had a bit of a false start in that, as I was riding out of our community, the back tire felt like it had a bulge in it.  Sure enough, when I stopped and checked I discovered the very old rear tire’s casing was so dried-out from age that it was coming apart and had a huge deformity.  I was able to ride back to the house without further incident, changed the rear tire with a spare and then got on my way again.

It was a good ride and the bike feels very comfortable now with the bars raised, etc.  It’s still not as comfortable to ride as the titanium or composite frames, but that’s OK too. It’s good to be reminded how nice those other materials are.

As far as any more tandem rides in the coming week, I’m not seeing it in the cards.  Today would have been a good day for a ride, but Debbie had to take care of some family business that had her away from the house from 8:00am until 2:30pm and she was worn-out when she arrived at home.  Tomorrow’s high will only be 52°F with cloudy skies so that’s not promising.  While Wednesday is looking OK with sunny skies and temps in the mid-50’s, Debbie will be getting a new crown in the afternoon which means she’ll have to spend the morning preparing appetizers and such for Thanksgiving Day.  Thursday, Thanksgiving brunch at Debbie’s mother’s home at 10:30am will have us tied up until 3:30pm, so that’s not looking all that great.  And then the temperatures drop and the rain comes in on Friday, with rain again on Saturday.  Of course, the chances that these day-by-day forecasts will hold up as the week goes along is pretty much a 50/50 bet.  So, we’ll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

Posted in Bloggishnish | 5 Comments

Is There A Tandem Ride In Our Future?! Here’s Hoping…

It’s hard to believe, but it’s been nearly four weeks since we last rode the tandem.  The last time we were on the Calfee was for the Sunday ride at the Southern Tandem Rally in Venice Florida on 14 October.  We did the shorter of the two routes so we could get on the road for the 5-hour drive back home to Kennesaw, Georgia, as Debbie’s family lost a loved-one over the weekend and we needed to be at the day-long visitation on Monday ahead of the funeral on Tuesday.

On Wednesday we had a previously scheduled a morning meeting with our financial advisors in Atlanta and, from there, we headed down to Daytona Beach, Florida on our Harley-Davidson Road Glide for the fall version of Bike Week.  It was a much-needed distraction for Debbie as her family seems to be plagued with more than its fair share of serious health issues.  My family is not immune either, which is probably true of most folks our age as our parents, aunts & uncles and even some of our siblings begin to deal with the challenges that life throws at you, as well as the inevitable mortality issues.

If that weren’t enough, we were also under a baby watch as our youngest son and daughter-in-law were expecting their fourth daughter on or about 31 October.  Well, Miss Scarlett decided to make her appearance at 7:33am on Tuesday, 30 October so she could be home for her 1st Halloween.  As you might expect, this became something of a distraction for a few days and, at the same time, our weather here in Georgia began to remind us that it was indeed fall.  As November began so did what has been nearly 3 weeks of colder, wet and dreary weather which has definitely limited our cycling opportunities.

As mentioned in other recent blog entries, Debbie is not all that interested in getting out to ride when the temperatures are below 60°F, the exception being those days when it’s in the 50’s but with the full warmth of the sun.  Given that during the week our low-traffic riding window is between 9:30am and 1:30pm and the daily high’s aren’t achieved until mid-afternoon, there just hasn’t been any day where the temperature thresholds were met.  I’m a bit more weather resistant so on those days when it wasn’t raining I either headed out to ride the trails on a mountain bike or hit the road alone on one of my road bikes.

As for the weekend afternoons that followed, on 3 & 4 November it just never got warm enough for Debbie, but I did get in a solo road ride on Sunday.  On Monday the 5th we had our pest control technician, Larry, at the house pretty much all day doing a full-house Sentricon treatment which had us tied up. On Tuesday and Wednesday the weather was once again not all that warm and inviting so Debbie passed on the tandem and I headed out on my single road bikes for early afternoon rides and just did my best to tolerate the MV/MUP/SUV moms blasting by mere inches a way as they headed out to pick up their kids at school since no one lets their kids walk or ride a bike to school anymore.  Once again, the weather was an issue for Thursday the 8th through Saturday the 10th.

Sunday’s weather wasn’t looking too bad and the prospects for an afternoon tandem ride would have been good.  However, on Thursday our oldest son and his girlfriend of 8 years decided they’d like to get married and the impromptu ceremony was scheduled for Sunday afternoon at her grandmother’s home.

As for this past week, every day has been cold, wet and dreary to the extent that I couldn’t even find a window when the roads were ever dry so I could at least get in a solo road bike ride.  As for off-road riding, forget about it: the trails close when it rains and remain closed until they dry out.

But, there’s now a glimmer of hope ahead of us.  While tomorrow won’t likely yield temperatures that are warm enough in the morning for a tandem ride, a solo road bike ride for me is definitely in the cards.  But, looking ahead to the weekend both Saturday and Sunday afternoon’s look as though we’ll have temperatures in the lower 60’s with sunny or partly sunny skies and, to the best of my knowledge, we have nothing else planned.

So, fingers crossed, I’ll finally be able to pull the tandem down, pump up the tires and get some quality time with the lovely Miss Debbie this weekend.  We’re both in dire need of that tandem time, as cycling was always intended to be a really big part of our retirement plan, along with lots of time spent out riding the motorcycle.  As you can tell from the events and weather that has kept us off the tandem, the same has been true for the motorcycle.  So, yeah… getting out on at least the tandem this weekend is priority #1!

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The Soma Crane Stem Arrived Today

As mentioned in two recent blog entries, as I was putting my ’99 Erickson Signature single road bike back into service I discovered that I’d need to raise the handlebars as my riding position has gotten a bit more relaxed over the past 19 years.  Given the Erickson has a 1″ AME Alpha Q threadless fork that was custom painted to match the frame, doing a fork swap was not feasible. I also looked at stem risers, but they just seemed a bit too klugey once you had the riser + a stem bolted-on.

As I did my research I came across an 80mm tall Soma Crane stem with an 80mm reach & 17° rise.  These are made by Nitto for Soma, but are only offered in a 1.125″ steerer size.  However, I assumed that like most 1.125″ stems, this combination riser/stem would also work just fine with the same type of spacer used to allow the installation of 1.125″ theadless stems on 1″ fork steerers.  So, that was my plan.  My only real moment for pause came on the stem length.  My current stem was an 80mm reach model, but with the stem height being raised a full inch, I wondered if I might not need the extra 20mm of reach.  I opted to go with the 80mm length and will keep my fingers crossed that it will net out to be “close enough” to the 50cm of reach that I have on my other bikes.  Again, the most important change will be raising the handlebars ~40mm to achieve a 35mm bar drop from the top of the saddle, again… on par with my other bikes.

Well, the stem arrived today.  Sadly, it did not come with a stem cap or the M5 x 60mm preload bolt needed that runs through the stem cap to the star nut in the fork.  However, in addition to having the spacers I needed to install the 1.125″ stem on my 1″ steerer tube, I also had several spare aftermarket 1.125″ stem caps and four M5 x 60mm bolts.  The bolts are from two spare OEM Calfee eccentric’s for our Calfee tandem which were replaced by a daVinci eccentric. Having those long M5 bolts saved me from making a trip over to Ace hardware, about the only place I know of that has every bolt available ‘ala carte’ vs. having to buy more than I’d ever need at Threads for the South, an industrial fastener supply house.

The transfer of stems didn’t take long as I already had the left-hand side of the bar tape removed from the Erickson.  However, as part of the stem installation I did end up having to change out both the left-hand brake and shifter housing and cables to allow for a longer cable housing run. For some reason, the right side was just fine: go figure.  Fortunately,  the UPS guy dropped off  two boxes of Shimano bicycle brake and shifter cable housing on Monday, as I had used up pretty much every other spare length of cable housing two weeks ago.  So,  I had 130′ of brake housing and 160′ of shifter cable housing on hand which should last me for several years, perhaps a decade of bicycle maintenance.  On average, a tandem or bicycle use perhaps 5′ to 6′ of each type of housing per replacement so even I can do that math: 20+ rebuilds, or about $7.00 per rebuild, half of what it costs to buy it by the foot or in “kits”.

Anyway, below are the before and after photos.  As for accomplishing what I’d hoped, the bars were indeed raised 40mm and are now 35mm below the top of the saddle, right where I want them.  However, I did lose 20mm in bar reach with the 80mm stem.  As for the overall impression of the stem and installation, I think I like it much more than the alternatives.  The 80mm stem essentially incorporates a 40mm riser but in a seamless looking package, with an integrated neck. The fixing bolt is on the front of the stem, which is a bit unusual.  I’ve only see this on one of the other risers sold under a couple different brand names.  Again, it’s a clean-looking stem and the use of the spacer doesn’t seem to compromise the integrity of the chromoly stem in any way.


I’m going to double check my saddle set-back to see if there might be a little room for adjustment there to add-back the 20mm I lost by not using the 100mm length stem, but will otherwise just ride it this way to see how it feels.

Anyhow, here’s how the Erickson looked as originally configured in 1999 (at left) and now with the Soma stem (at right).  And yes, the Erickson is also sporting the new Bontrager Montrose Comp saddle.  Now, if the rain would just stop long enough to allow for a ride!


As a final image for comparison, below is an overlay of the before and after photos that shows the increase in bar height achieved by changing the stem.  Note that the shifter position in the after image appears to put the bars a bit further out… that’s just an optical illusion created by the bars being turned slightly to the left in the current photo.  And yes, I’ve adjusted the nose height of the saddle to be up a bit higher, consistent with the tandem and the other single bikes now that the bar height is corrected.

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Good Bikes Are Like Fine Wines…

… they’re all different and delicious in their own ways.

Sadly, I’m not able to offer some new and exciting insights on the ride qualities of a new tandem as we’ve pretty much got all the tandems we need, perhaps even one or two too many.

The Calfee continues to deliver outstanding comfort and handling, even with the short fork rake and long steering trail of the True Temper Alpha Q X2 fork.  I’ve toyed with installing a spare Reynolds Ouzo Pro Tandem fork with more rake to see if we’ve reached the point where extra straight line stability and the ability to handle a 28mm tire might be preferable to the riding-on-rails cornering of the Alpha Q and it’s max tire capacity of 25mm… perhaps next Spring?  We’ll see.

In my last blog entry I mentioned I’d be interesting in finding our 2002 Erickson Custom travel tandem but, alas, not a peep has come forth from that solicitation. And, quite frankly, that’s probably OK too.  Debbie wasn’t all that keen on returning to a steel frame after 10+ years on carbon, remembering that she instantly fell in love with the Calfee back in January 2008. She saw no need to ever ride either of our steel Erickson tandems again… which is why we ended up selling them.

However, the impetus for the subject line on this blog entry was back-to-back rides on the recently resurrected single road bikes where the titanium Dean Castanza (photo at right) suddenly emerged as the bike I enjoyed riding the most on just a regular rolling loop ride.  Yes, that means my all composite Calfee Tetra Pro came in second, with the Dedacciai Zero / Steel Erickson a distant third.

Now, to be fair, and as noted in my previous blog entry on the single road bikes, the Erickson wasn’t fully sorted out when I first rode it and I hadn’t even ridden the Dean when I wrote that blog.

Since then I’ve ordered  a taller stem for the Erickson — an 80mm tall Soma Crane model — that should raise the handlebars a net of 35mm.  That will put it on par with the Dean and the Calfee in terms of riding position.  I’m guessing the reward shift of CG and more upright posture will yield some positive changes in riding efficiency and comfort.  The current, stock riding position with the handlebars 40mm below my saddle height is just too aggressive for my near 60-year old body.

Now, if the weather would just cooperate!  The colder temps have caused the tandem to be sidelined since late October as Debbie is not fond of riding below the 60°F mark and I’ve been rained out of solo bike rides for over a week thus far and.  While it’s nothing compared to the long-term disruptions in life that folks who have been impacted by Hurricane’s Florence & Michael are still enduring — never mind the folks now being impacted by wild fires in California and more recent flooding from just seasonal, non-tropical storms — riding on a near daily basis was a major part of my retirement plan so I’m struggling with that a bit.

Now, in terms of the other tandems I alluded to, I’m still not getting a sense that Debbie’s all that interested in getting back on the off-road tandem for trail riding.  I’ll take a run at it again next year, but I’ve deferred any further work on the Ventana — it’s about due for seal replacements — until we get out for at least 4 rides. Otherwise, I’m just wasting money on servicing a fork the next owner may not care about.  Yes, next owner.  It really makes no sense to hold onto a tandem that’s not going to be ridden, especially one like a full-suspension tandem where things like seals and fluids don’t last forever. 

That leaves the triplet which may also be a bit in doubt.  When we first bought it the idea was we’d have it available for the three or four big rallies we always attend here in the Southeast where one of two or three gal-friends has usually been available to “stoke” the triplet.  But, I sense there may be a shift in guest stoker availability and, unless our granddaughter Caroline decides she’d like to ride with the grandparents, it too will just collect dust.  So, it may be short-lived as well.

Oh, it’s so hard to part with the bicycles!!  Guess that’s why we still have 12-13 of the things here at the house.  Like I said, good bicycles are like fine wines, they warrant collecting so that you can savor their individual and unique characteristics every now and again.



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Helmet Mirror’s & Moisture Damage

Sadly, I lost the photos of the two mirrors with the moisture damage in evidence and will likely have a hard time properly describing what occurred.  However, I’ll do my best…

It was in early August and the day after Debbie and I had been out for a 35-mile ride on a very hot and humid day that I first noticed the mirror on her Hubbub Cycling mirror didn’t look quite right.  Instead of being fully reflective it had taken on a copper-colored hue around the edges with a large, hazy blob covering the middle of the mirror.  It appeared as though something that had compromised the silver coating on the mirror such that the copper backing was showing through the otherwise clear glass.

When I went to get the mirror off of my own helmet to put on Debbie’s, son-of-a-gun if its perimeter didn’t have the same, sudden loss of silver uniformly around the edge of the mirror.

I ended up applying heat to the mirror / mirror housing to encourage the adhesive holding the mirror in place to release so I could get the mirror out of the housing to examine the backside of the mirror.  Sure enough, on one mirror the glass and silver coating had de-bonded from the copper backing which was still adhered to the grey plastic mirror housing.  On the other, the mirror released with the remaining silver / copper backing attached.

After considering my options, I decided I’d take a shot at fixing the mirrors as we really like their large, well-placed mirror design.  Given that one of the mirrors lost all of its silver-covered copper backing, whereas the other only lost a thin strip of the silver and copper around the perimeter, I ended up using two different repair methods.

  1. Mirror Effect Paint:  On the one mirror that had lost all of it’s copper and silver backing, after doing a little cleaning with a solvent I essentially had a clear piece of glass in my hand instead of a mirror.  I’d seen a can of “Mirror Effect” paint at the home store when I was picking up some touch-up paint for an appliance and figured I’d see how well that would work on something like a functional mirror vs. just a decorative item.  The final result is visible in the mirror to the right in the photo below.  Yes, it did in fact turn the piece of glass back into a mirror; however, the reflected image was not of good optical quality. In fact, it was very hazy with some spotting.  I made several attempts at coating the glass with the paint, cleaning off the prior coat with solvent between each attempt and it always came out the same regardless of technique used, e.g., many light coats vs. thick coats, air dry vs. heated dry, etc.  So, the paint approach was not going to work well on that particular mirror.  However, it worked well-enough that I was able to use it on the other mirror with the loss of silver around the perimeter.  No, the optical quality wasn’t great, but since it was only around the perimeter it was good enough and returned the mirror to service once the glass reinstalled in the plastic mirror frame.  It’s the mirror in the middle of the photo below.
  2. Making a New Mirror:  For the other mirror where the Mirror Effect paint didn’t delivery the desired optical qualities I went to the auto parts store and purchased a small piece of replacement mirror glass.  It wasn’t as thick as I would have liked, but if I could score and snap it with relatively clean breaks I believed I’d be able to get the complex, 7-sided mirror I needed to fit back in the plastic frame.  I had enough mirror material to make 3 attempts and my second attempt proved to be “good enough” to return the mirror to service.  As feared, the small size of the mirror needed in combination with the cheap, thin-glass used for the replacement mirror did not break as cleanly as a thicker, better-quality piece of mirrored glass would have.  It’s the mirror at the left in the photo below.

So, all told, I spent $7.00 for the Mirror Effect paint and $8.00 for the auto replacement mirror and returned both of my 7-year old, $29 Hubbub Mirrors to service.  I was good with that as we’re very happy with the Hubbub mirrors and haven’t found any that we’d be willing to replace them with as most use a much smaller, round or rectangular piece of mirrored glass vs. the large heptagonal Hubbub mirror glass.

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