Cycling and How to Know If You Should Cut Your Fork So You Don’t Have a Tall Spacer Stack Above the Stem
My road bikes are treated differently from our tandem. With the tandem, at 52 and with plans to get at least thirty years out of that bike, we’re going to be riding that bike long enough that I’ll eventually want to raise the stem to keep the bike comfortable as I age so I’m keeping a 20mm stack above the stem. I won’t cut the fork.
With my road bikes, I went for pretty:
I was also ten years younger when I bought each.
Cutting the fork to avoid a tall stack of spacers above the stem is an important decision. There are two ways to raise your bar higher to make the ride more comfortable; raise the stem or buy a stem that has some rise to it (or flip your current stem upside down if you’ve got the stem parallel to the ground [or close to it]). If you cut your fork once you find where you like your handlebar, that will eliminate one of those remedies (though your bike will look proper.
The image on the right is from the first days of owning our new tandem. The photo on the left is where the stem sits now that we’ve put some miles in on the bike. I lowered it to stop my hands going numb after just ten or fifteen miles.
Now, normally I’d cut the fork and eliminate all but 5mm of a spacer above the stem to keep the cockpit pretty. After a lot of thought on the matter, I’m not going to do that with the new Co-Motion. I’m going to want the option of stacking a bunch of spacers under the stem when I’m (a lot) older.
Ten or twenty years ago this would have been a much different post.
I have been quite cryptic about my wife’s health issue. I’m simply not going to come straight out about what’s happening, because it’s simply one of those things that I’m not comfortable getting into detail about. You’ll be able to intuit what was going on from the next line. We got the results of my wife’s biopsy back last night. She’s clear. No cancer.
Now we’re both good.
What a relief!
Now if we could just get some decent cycling weather around here…
On My End of the Health Front
My wife isn’t quite out of the woods yet, but we can see the edge of the forest and there’s some sunshine on the other side.
For my stuff, I’m standing next to my wife but I’m on to a slightly chubby me. There’s no doubt I need some saddle time!
My problems started out a couple of weeks before we headed down to Washington, DC. Well, even before that, I had my first colonoscopy a while back and the news wasn’t perfect. I had a polyp in a weird bend in my intestine that the doctor, a good friend of mine who’s done 70,000 of the procedures, had never seen. He took a biopsy and it was completely benign. I have to get it checked in three years to make sure it’s still good and, if so, all is well.
After that, maybe a month later, I developed what I thought was an ingrown hair on my chest. It exploded into a massive infection that required a trip to the clinic. A round of antibiotics and I was back to normal. Or so I thought.
Two weeks ago, I thought I had a spot of poison ivy. I squeezed the little puss bubble and though all would be well (I know you never touch poison ivy like that). Two days later I had an angry infection. I hoped it would go away but it got much worse.
Another trip to the same clinic and this time, after draining it, I was given a prescription antibiotic that would, just in case, cover MRSA. That was Saturday and I’m feeling quite chipper now. A lot better. The swelling is gone from my arm, it’s stopped leaking, and the color is returning to normal. In fact, I can’t even find the hole anymore.
That could be my old-ass eyes, too.
Anyway, that’s where I’m at. My wife has a day or two left for her final results and we’ll be able to go about our summer should things turn out as we hope.
We’re almost there.
Another Fantastic Sunday Funday… If A Cold One.
The forecast for Sunday morning was, well, less than stellar though we were supposed to have some sun. That’s how the morning started, too. Cold but sunny. We readied with an extra layer of tights over our leg warmers and I went with a simple jersey under my Funkier jacket, my wife with a light base layer under hers. They’re probably the best piece of cold weather cycling equipment we own.
The sun felt nice when we walked out into the chilly, barely above freezing morning… it made the cold bearable. Well, so did our winter kit.
My wife and I wheeled our tandem out and started our computers and rear blinking radar taillight. One leg each over the top tube and it was time to roll.
The clouds had swallowed the sun within two miles of our starting. Of course, the lovely thing about riding a new, marvelous bike – even a cold, cloudy, gloomy morning can feel pretty spectacular. I still marvel at just how amazing that bike is to ride, comparing it to our last tandem (which we thought was quite stellar at the time).
We pressed on into the wind for a good ten miles before meeting Greg on the road… in fact, we were rolling slow enough into the breeze that Jess called Greg to find out where he was so he didn’t think we’d miss him. All of my friends who read this blog will attest that Greg is one of the greats in our neck of the woods. He can ride with almost anyone and be happy about it. We rode along and caught up after a long winter.
We did a loop into Bancroft and headed toward our old Tuesday night stomping grounds. My wife had been missing riding a specific overpass that we cross under when driving to and from work and had been talking about it for weeks. We headed straight for that stretch which includes an awesome downhill to a township limits sign. We took advantage of the downhill and tailwind and hammered for the sign, gritting our teeth against the effort. Greg was riding beside us and we were giving it everything we had to stay just ahead of him at the sign at more than 35-mph. Strava says we topped out at 36.2 (58 km/h).
We rode together, talking and laughing all the way to Durand where Greg split off to head for home. We continued on with a tailwind and an increasing Sunday Funday average till we hit our road. 32-miles with a 17.3-mph average. Not bad for only having ridden once last week.
We’re hoping our future has more fun times… and frequency.
No Cycling in a Week?! It’s Time to Return Our Seats to the Upright Position…
If we follow each other on Strava and you’re like, “hey, where are Jim and Jessica?” fear not. We’re here. Cycling has been a little sparse this week even though we’ve had some decent weather. Well, “decent weather” is subjective in itself. It’s been mostly crap with a nice day or two sprinkled in. It’s been cold and rainy for the most part – and the forecast is about the same, though a touch warmer, over the next two weeks. Lots of rain and cool temperatures.
It’s not all on the weather, though. I’m working late one night a week, now. The we have six on our team and each of us takes a day in rotation. This week that evening happened to fall on the one warm day, so no riding.
It’s not all horrible news, of course. I spend most of my day on my feet, walking the building, so I’m not wildly out of shape. Just mildly out of shape.
We’ll find out this morning just how out of shape “mildly” out of shape is, though. We’ve got a 30+ miler heading out to my wife’s favorite town so we can turn around at some point and let the wind blow us home. It won’t be a barn burner, I can tell you that much.
My wife and I talked about the little lull in the pedalicious delight, yesterday. She mentioned that she was surprised I wasn’t a lot more antsy about not riding. To tell the truth, I hadn’t really thought about it much…
Life has simply gotten in the way of late. It’ll ease soon and hopefully we can pedal right through it. On the new tandem. Of course.
Is a High-End Tandem Worth The Money?!
After the second set of road wheels, the Thudbuster seatpost, custom parts and decals, bottle cages, riser spacers and carbon fiber stem cap… our new tandem was ridiculously expensive.
Next to our old, middle-of-the-road tandem (which, at almost $6,000, was still as much as a decent high-end road bike), where does a rig that costs north of $10,000 land?
Well, after a few weeks of getting the bike set and fitted, the difference is pretty shocking.
My wife and I are faster over-all. By a lot. We climb better, we ride the flats better, and even descend a little better (the extra 16-ish pounds definitely helped the old tandem go down hill better!). The high-grade alloy frame is actually more comfortable than was the steel frame. The drivetrain is better (Ultegra over 105), the wheels are better, roll faster, and are almost two pounds lighter (just shy of a kg!). The brakes, mechanical on both bikes, are vastly superior on the new tandem; TRP Spyre vs. Avid BB5.
The Gates synchro belt drive is so vastly superior to the old chain synchro system, it’s not even fair comparing the two. Quieter, lighter, more efficient… the difference is stark and impressive.
I’d say this all begs the question, is a high-end tandem worth the money?
Herein lies the rub; I figured a high-end tandem would be about like the jump from a decent mid-range single road bike to a high-end rig. Sure, the high-priced steed is a little better in terms of ride quality, but most can do anything on a decent $3,000 rig that one can on a $8,000 machine.
It’s not like that jumping from a decent mid-range tandem to a high-end rig, though.
Riding our new Kalapuya is vastly improved and superior to our old Periscope. It’s faster in almost every way and it’s vastly more comfortable. I used to tell myself when we struggled on our steel Periscope, it was probably us (meaning me) – that we were slow because other tandem riders were a little more fit. While we absolutely could have used to run into a few more salads, the bike played a bigger role than I thought.
So, the question remains; is a high-end tandem worth the money? I’d simply say, if you’ve got enough that you can comfortably afford north of $10,000 for your tandem, they’re worth every penny.
I’d take the new rig over our old one every day of the week and twice on Sunday. It’s that nice.
Almost to a Place We Can Breathe a Sigh of Relief…
I mentioned about a week ago that my wife and I are waiting on some health news that could be really bad. We’re not a hundred percent yet, but we got some very encouraging news yesterday.
We did breathe a massive sigh of relief at the news we did get, but the final, real relief comes when the lab report gets back to us in three to five days.
More soon. In the meantime, we’re relieved beyond words.
What’s with Those Goofy Flared Handlebars, Anyway?! They’ve Gotta Be a Gimmick, Right?
I was more than a little bummed out when my wife and I visited our brand new custom Co-Motion Kalapuya at the shop as it was being built and the first thing I saw was the flared handlebar, common on many gravel rigs these days.
This was not what is shown on the Co-Motion website for the gravel/road tandem, so it was completely unexpected. In a bad way. I’ve always viewed the flared bars as a gimmick and proudly stuck with my 42cm standard drop road bars.
This is the tandem as it is today. From the day we rolled it in the door, I’ve changed the hood angle completely, along with the stack of spacers under the stem (I lowered the bar considerably) and set the cockpits up to our standard numbers and liking on the road.
Now that I’ve had several good rides on the bike with the setup where I want it, I have to give the flared handlebar rave reviews. I would never go so far as to put on on either of my road bikes, but for the tandem, it’s really great. It provides a little more stability so steering that big behemoth is a little more responsive – it fact, now that I think about it, we got a couple of nice compliments about our cornering the other day. We took a couple of steep corners at a decent speed, much to the surprise of a couple of our friends.
I’d be willing to bet that was, in part, due to the added stability afforded by the wider bar.
Sunday Funday, A QOM for My Wife, and a Perfect Group for a Wonderful Morning Ride
I rolled the tandem out of the bike room well before dawn to prep it for the morning’s ride. I prepped the water bottles for the longest ride of our spring… and having raised my saddle to what I hoped was the perfect height, I took to filling the tires, then dropping the handlebar by about a centimeter. It never ceases to amaze me how important it is to have my handlebars low enough that I feel comfortable on the bike. For most, it’s how high they can stack the spacers under the stem. For me, it’s how many should I stack over the top of the stem. In the case of this tandem, it’s a lot.
We rolled out to perfect weather and a SSE breeze at 7:30 am to the just rising sun. It was almost short-sleeve warm, but just not quite there as we tooled down the road, heading the opposite way of the rising sun. The conversation was lively and we had a fantastic group. My wife and I were the only tandem, but we had Chucker, Jeff, Jay and Mike on their single bikes… and we picked up Big Joe, Phill and Brad on the road within the first five miles. We had a gaggle of us.
We did our normal large turns up front but we didn’t hesitate to drop back for a break, either. And once we hit the south section, into the wind, was one of those times. Chucker handled the task admirably, keeping the speed lively but nothing too difficult for the group to keep up. He hit the perfect zone and stayed up there for miles.
Jess and I were in perfect synch with each other. I wasn’t pedaling too hard and she was perfect in the rear admiral’s post. I reached back to hold her hand several times, and she’d pet my side after.
Oh, I almost failed to mention, my Garmin was dead when I walked out the door. Zero battery. It wouldn’t even start. I’d be flying blind the whole ride.
My wife tapped my butt and said quietly, “don’t go for the sign if Chucker stays up there”. I agreed with a nod of my head. I hadn’t planned on it. What a turn! Just before we would normally break for the City Limits sign sprint, almost inexplicably, Chucker flicked off and headed to the back. The headwind charge was on! Jess said into my ear, “Let’s mess with Mike, we can stay beside him till the sign”. We kinda did that. For a few seconds. Then hit the gas and used the downhill momentum to get us up to speed. Oh how that tandem loves to be ridden fast! It’s like a dragster next to our last tandem!
Once in town, we stopped at the gas station a picked up a couple of Payday candy bars for the ride – one to eat now, one for later, if needed. We took a few sips of water after downing the peanut candy bar and rolled out. With the headwind of the day done, we could concentrate on getting to our favorite tailwind section. It was going to be a fast one with the tailwind. About six miles later we were at the intersection.
We cranked it up slowly, but once we hit our speed we kept the pedal down. A long uphill quarter-mile and we were at the gate to our section of downhill rollers. Mike broke the golden rule of passing the tandem on the way up that hill… we laughed and just held our pace knowing he’d pay for that over the next three miles.
As we crested the hill, we hit the gas and it was on. I couldn’t analyze the stats because my wife invited me on the ride through Strava and the stats don’t transfer, but I knew we hit a top speed of 33.6mph (I’d be willing to bet it was over 35 on Garmin, but whatever). Jess picked up a QOM for the section, but Chucker pipped us for the City Limits sign the hard way… he didn’t ride our wheel only to come around at the last minute, he rode beside us for the better part of two miles! I gave it everything I had but ran out of gas just before the sign, my heart felt like it might dislocate a rib or two it was pounding so hard.
It’s looking to be a fun summer on that tandem.
The cruise home was easy and subdued to keep the group together. I wasn’t complaining a bit – and because I couldn’t see our average drop, I didn’t worry a bit about it. That is a rarity.
It was high-fives and handshakes for the last few miles. We were back again after a long winter.
My wife and I smiled several times yesterday recounting our favorite parts of the ride.
Does a Thudbuster Seatpost Really Work?
We’ve got every bell and whistle we could afford on our tandem road/gravel race bike… minus the options that can’t be fixed from a duffle bag on a road trip, because that bike is going places.
If you zoom in on the Rear Admiral’s seatpost, you’ll see the great and wonderful Thudbuster seatpost. We don’t, necessarily, plan on taking that bike on gravel adventures, but we absolutely wanted to be able to take the bike anywhere.
If we do eventually go on a dirt adventure, I feared the obvious bumps that dirt roads are famous for. With 45mm gravel tires, I figured there was enough cushion we wouldn’t have to worry, but our Co-Motion has a high-grade alloy frame that I assumed would ride like your typical alloy frame… not much give in an alloy frame, at least not like our last steel tubed tandem. So, after 22 seconds of talking it over, we asked for the Thudbuster seatpost option.
After several rides on the bike, reports are fantastic from the Rear Admiral’s saddle. My wife, when asked how she likes the saddle, simply said, “the thuds are busted”. In fact, for those who are familiar with Michigan’s paved country roads with stress cracks every twelve feet or so (3-4 meters), she’s gone so far as to say she doesn’t mind those quite as much as she used to.
So, does the Thudbuster seatpost do what it’s designed to do? Yes it does.
One installation tip, though, we noticed that my wife needed her saddle slightly higher that which was usual to account for a slight sag due to the rubber “shock”. We’re talking a millimeter or so, though. Not much, and a slight raise in her saddle made all well.
This is the bike with the gravel wheels on it…
Sure, there’s a weight penalty, but a happy wife on the back of the tandem is a strong and wonderful thing. We highly recommend the Thudbuster.