Cycling in Washington DC; The BEST Way to See the City is From the Cockpit of a Bicycle
I found myself missing riding in Washington, DC this morning. For context and those who regularly ready this blog, DC isn’t tandem-friendly, as it is single-bike friendly – and it is exceedingly single-bike friendly. They did a great job making that a fun place to ride.
My wife and I took tours our first days there – a rail trail ride to Bethesda, Maryland, a tour that followed President Lincoln’s route from the White House to his cottage a few miles away… we went everywhere and it was beautiful. I took three tours on the first day and one the next. Typically, that would be prohibitively expensive but we were with a group and the tours were a part of the deal.
We learned how to ride DC on the tours, then we applied that knowledge and set out on our own. To see what we did would take at the very least a full day for an exceptionally fit person. We hit a good bit of the must-see monuments in a matter of hours.
If you’ve got the urge to visit Washington DC, bring your bike. You won’t be sorry!
2023 Horsey Hundred On A Tandem
The Horsey Hundred, in Georgetown, Kentucky, is a magnet for tandems. There were dozens upon dozens for this year’s event (I heard estimates north of 60 tandems at the tandem rally alone on Friday). Our adventure in getting to the ride was one of grace, patience and impeccable timing. 24 hours before we were to head south, the tandem was in pieces on the bike room floor. 10 hours before and it was whole and ready to roll with a mountain cassette on the rear wheel (50/34 up front, 11-40 11 sp in the back). We’d suffered a… malfunction just half a week before, but managed to get a derailleur, a Gates belt drive pulley and a belt delivered to the house just before we were set to leave.
The drive down was fantastic. My wife and I are doing wonderfully in our marriage and we’ve been incredibly busy with work so having a long, five-day weekend to decompress and enjoy each other’s company with friends was going to be a much needed break.
The weather for Friday’s tandem rally in the afternoon was glorious, if a little cool. We opted for the 24-mile route to get our legs used to the Kentucky rolling hills but didn’t quite get all of the paperwork and signup stuff associated with completing the trifecta (Friday, Saturday & Sunday, any distance) and the significance of the tandem rally. We left early and missed the photo op and tandem mass start by a few minutes. The route, with more than 50′ of up per mile, didn’t disappoint. Though it did set my wife’s mind off in a flurry of doubt about the next day’s 65 miles. I won’t lie, even I thought it was going to be exceedingly difficult. I knew we had the gears to complete everything… I just didn’t know about the legs. We ended up doing just fine, but 65-miles looked pretty scary. That was a lot of up. We didn’t take many photos on that ride. Jess couldn’t get a good rhythm with the phone because of all of the up and down.
We rose Saturday morning and went to breakfast. After, we showered and got the tandem ready to roll and rode it to Georgetown College, the start.
I’d say it was fair to say we were both a ball of nerves as we rolled out. I tried talking about anything but the task ahead of us and remain positive.
Like the day before, I started out way too hard. I calmed myself after ten or twenty miles, knowing we wouldn’t make it if I kept the pace we were holding up the hills. Back home, we’ve got a hill every few minutes that requires a few seconds of extra power. In Kentucky, if you’re not going down, you’re going up. There are maybe a few miles of flat in the whole ride. I asked if we could take it easier up the hills and I opted for two gears easier than I’d normally use on an uphill. That worked perfectly. I started to relax after the first few miles and I could talk to Jess a little more.
The change made all of the difference in the world. We were exceedingly slow on the climbs, but the ride went so much better, it was worth the drop in average pace.
The rest of the ride was a glorious, happy blur. Mike and Jonathan ended up catching on with the main group and Jess and I rode on our own for the last twenty miles or so. It was fantastic. We crossed the 100k threshold well before the finish so we opted to carve off early and take a highway with a wide shoulder as a shortcut back to the hotel. We’d made our goal. 100k in Kentucky on the tandem. We were both excited to have made it.
Sadly, the food, both at the dinner and at the rest stops were sub-par this year. The later rest stops were well stocked with all of our “we need some energy” goodies.
The Best Lightweight High-Volume Tandem Saddlebag Ever Conceived. It’s PERFECT
Oh, I’m a happy man.
We had a KlickIt saddlebag on our Co-Motion Periscope for years. It was given to us by a riding buddy, Chuck, and we we loved it. It carried arm warmers and leg warmers, wet weather gear… everything. That sucker was big and awesome.
I even sewed a Garmin mount to it do we could easily attach our blinkie radar. We loved that saddlebag, even though it had a massive flaw; the click-in attachment was flimsy. I lined the sides with electrical tape and that tightened the locking mechanism up.
When we wheeled our new bad@$$ mammer jammer Co-Motion Kalapuya in the front door, the intent was to use the old KlickIt saddle bag on the new rig… until we found out the lock ring is made for a 28.6mm seatpost… and the new seatpost is 31.8. There wasn’t an easy way to modify the old lock ring so we started looking for replacements. There wasn’t much out there that we liked, nothing we loved.
Until we saw the Rixen Kaul Contour saddlebag with the KlickFix attachment system.
We ordered ours from an online bike shop in Minnesota and it came with two attachment rings. One for the smaller seatposts, one for oversized seatposts. And that was exactly what we needed. Now, we could have used the new collar with our old saddle bag, but the flaw with the click-on section, combined with the fact the new saddle bag is a LOT nicer looking than the old one, I opted to put the Rixen Kaul Contour on the new Co-Motion.
We’ve already had it full and packed down (it’ll handle upwards of 4 pounds of gear or 2 kg) and love it.
All of the flaws in our KlickIt are fixed with the KlickFix and Rixen Kaul saddle bag. If you miss the old “no rack required” high-volume saddlebag made by KlickIt, the Rixen Kaul line is the answer.
At 4 liters, the Contour is just big enough to carry everything we need when exploring on our tandem. Oh, and it comes with a hi-viz rain fly that stows away in one of the side pockets. Another nice touch.
A Weekend In the Red: Cycling, Family and Happiness
It felt like my first semi-normal week in a long time. Some good, some bad. Jess and I are doing well and riding excellently. We had two long rides both days this weekend, both were wonderful. We had a little communication breakdown Sunday, because we were both tired, but we talked that part of it out and ended up having a nice day together.
I’m exceedingly pleased with how the tandem is running. The bike is solid and quiet and just hums down the road. Which, if you can believe it, is a source for consternation with my rear admiral. The bike’s so quiet, every little click and tick sounds loud.
Our daughter came home last night because our youngest broke up with her boyfriend of two years and she’s just devastated. We had a lovely, rare dinner together and our young one started the process of healing.
On my front, an exceedingly busy few weeks has led to a small backslide where I don’t quite take care of the things I normally would within the marriage. I started turning that back around as soon as I recognized it. These little details, when left go, lead to big problems down the road, so better to take care of them right now.
I’m feeling quite excellent after the weekend, and it’s a good thing; this week is going to be crazy.
To put a cherry on this post, even though this week past was about half of my normal mileage (148 miles), Strava shows that my effort was a huge jump over previous weeks… in fact, three of the last four showed up in the red.
That’s about how this year is going!
A Saturday Duathlon: Cycling and Golf
Jess and I hammered out 47-miles on the tandem yesterday morning with a few friends. It was a great ride. Fantastic. We’re riding like we’re a finely tuned machine and the new tandem feels like we’re cheating compared to the old Periscope. We were all set for a 40-miler when my wife asked, per Chuck’s request the day before, if we should keep heading north to the next paved road. It added another eight miles overall. The consensus was to roll on (prodded by me, for fear someone chimed in to cut it short). About two miles into the extra, my wife and I both hit hungry.
When we’re riding alone we talk a lot. In a group, it’s a little less. I don’t really know why. My wife and I spoke about it extensively about it, just now, and it actually works out for us better for both of us that we don’t talk as much in a pack.
We’d been battling a minor crossing headwind for 22 miles and we’d been up front all but the last mile. I think that was wearing on us a bit, because once we turned south, we picked up the pace… though I won’t lie and say we did it without much effort. We were both audibly hurting. Still, with all but a mile-and-a-half up front, call it two, I got the bright idea we should do the rest of the ride from the front. A friend of ours likes to take 20-mile turns up front the first day of DALMAC, so I wanted to be able to post something on Strava about it.
I got that chance. We finished the 47-miler with 45 up front. It was a great ride.
We cleaned up, ate some lunch and took a nap. After, a little housework was tended to, then I headed to Lansing to meet my colleague for a short round of golf at a neat little 12-hole course.
I was striping the ball the first nine, finishing with a +3 39. The last three holes were a little bit of a struggle, though. I hit TIRED. I’m really happy with how I’m hitting the ball this year. I’m driving around 260-270 and my iron game is solid. The chipping/short game is better than ever, and my putting is solid but could use some work.
I met my wife for dinner after the round and we headed home for bed.
If I were to lay out my idea of a fantastic day, that’d be close enough for government work.
In Cycling, Is Aero Really Everything? An Interesting Perspective From The Captain’s Chair.
I’ve been kicking this post around for quite some time, but I noticed a neat new wrinkle just Saturday morning.
My wife and I are very good cyclists. We’ve had our cycling legs for years, now and we use them. Up until last season, I spent the bulk of my time on one of two road bikes – a ’99 Trek 5200 and a ’13 Specialized Venge. I’m closing in on 100,000 miles (or I’d get there if my damned career didn’t get in the way!) that’s split something like this; 40,000 on the Trek, 45,000 on the Venge, and 15,000 split between our tandem, my mountain bike and my gravel bike..
Point is, I’ve got extensive miles betwixt the Trek and Specialized. And yes, I can feel the difference in resistance. It’s not huge, maybe a half-mile per hour, but it’s there, plain as day.
So, if you’re one of those who claims aero is all a marketing ploy and there really isn’t much difference between a classic all-carbon Trek race bike and today’s (or especially yesterday’s) race bikes, you’re wrong, but not by much.
When you’re in a pack, riding with six or more friends, aero matters even less because you’re only in the first three bikes half or less of the time you’re riding. However, where this gets fun and exciting is when you’re out on a solo training ride. Solo, you’ll ride faster on an aero bike, but the training will be better on an older round tube bike. You’re not out there for Strava cred, after all. Right? Well, okay, maybe you think that equates to something. Let’s move on.
So here’s the fun part in this post: my wife and I are out on our tandem and we’re pushing 18-20mph into a decent little cross-headwind. It didn’t feel all that difficult. We were just cruising. Now, the bike we ride is anything but aero. The fork is great, but the tubes are all mostly round – none of that fancy hydro-formed aluminum for us. It’s really light, though. Anyway, one of our friends was cold, so he decided to come around and take some time up front to raise his heart rate to warm up… he said it only took seconds once he wasn’t protected anymore.
Now, our tandem isn’t aero, but we are. We’re two people with the wind cross-section of one in a headwind and the power of two. We can ride for miles in a headwind before tapping out while someone on a single might take a mile.
So, if you’re a bike manufacturer making bicycles, yeah, aero is everything because that’s the only thing they’ve got to claim over another brand (which is why bikes look so much alike nowadays). If, however, you’re a cyclist, aero for the bike isn’t as much as would be aero for the cyclist. The bigger the hole I have to punch in the wind, the harder it is to punch the hole!
Oh, and tandems rock!
Switching from Single Bikes to a Tandem for a Married Couple
My wife and I are a tandem couple. We still have single bikes but don’t ride them regularly anymore, unless you count winter riding on the trainers next to each other in the living room.
Our first tandem, a Co-Motion Periscope
Now, if you’re reading this and shaking your head, “No way”, I get it. Hell, if your wife is reading this and shaking her head and saying, “No chance”, I get it. My wife and I weren’t much different. Until we started riding our first tandem seriously during the Covid debacle (and the Governor of Michigan was paying me to be a pro cyclist – and writing that line will never get old). One day, a friend of ours asked on a Sunday Funday ride why we didn’t ride our tandem more. He pointed out that Sundays would be perfect for that bike. So we gave it a go. A new attitude later and we haven’t looked back.
Now we’ve gone so far as to buy matching helmets, glasses, jerseys and even socks…
Then we picked up a new tandem:
At the end of last season actually chose a top-end custom tandem as a work-sponsored bonus over new single bikes. So, are we nuts?
Prior to tandem cycling, we couldn’t pilot a canoe together without the adventure devolving into a massive fight.
So, tandems are either marriage makers or marriage breakers, another tandem couple we ride with likes to say. Their tandem is a marriage maker. My wife and I started out rocky, but we really worked at it and we’re in the same boat now.
Here’s how we did it…
From my wife’s saddle, she’s the rear admiral. I’m the captain. She gives the orders and I execute them. She trusts me implicitly to pilot the bike. She does not back seat ride. She provides power and for that, gets to enjoy the scenery, not about the wheel we’re trying to hold. I should ask her to write a post about this, actually so she can put her perspective down, rather than me writing about my understanding of her perspective.
From my saddle, I changed a lot so we can be happy on our tandem. First, I gave up the “aggressive” cyclist me, as I’ve written about before. The speed did come, eventually, and I’m better for it. Patience is indeed a virtue. That aggressive cyclist guy doesn’t mesh with my wife. I found I didn’t like being that guy anyway. Second, I’ve come to realize I’m happier on the tandem with my wife than I am on single bikes. After taking the time to learn how to really communicate on the bike, we reduced our difficulties on the tandem to afterthoughts.
The communication is really the key to our happiness on a tandem. Without it, we’d be sunk. That’s the key, but that’s not even the biggest part of what makes us a successful tandem couple. That biggest part is desire for it to work. Well, patience would be the third. That’s pretty big, too.
We wanted it enough to make it happen, and it’s fantastic. We never got smiles like that on the single bikes.
Check Your Crankarm Bolts… Especially On A New Bike. And What to Do If Yours Needs To Be Tightened After Every Ride
Jess, my wife, recently pointed out that we’ve had some crankarm issues over the years. Because there were always distinct causes for the issue, and because we’ve always addressed the causes before they became a problem, I never gave it much thought.
After our little mishap on our brand new top-end tandem the other day, where the bike was completely perfect and that crank arm fell off 7-1/2 miles into a ride, and an extended conversation with my wife (and a short one with Matt Assenmacher), I decided to start checking the crankarm bolts a little more regularly. Well, a lot more regularly, especially on the tandem.
Now, I have it on authority that Campagnolo makes the best crank as far as crank bolts go, so I can accept that. A close second would have to be Shimano for my money. Now, that’s just my experience. Yours may differ.
Over the years we’ve had a Shimano 105 crankset come loose on us (but it was on my wife’s bike and I was drafting her when it started to go bad so it was fixed before it was a problem), we’ve had a FSA crank loosen up on us (wife’s gravel bike, but there was a massive quality flaw in that particular crank), then our tandem – a bike with just under 200 miles on it, seemingly out of the blue, and that was utterly catastrophic though we managed to keep the rubber side down.
As it turns out, it’s common for the bolt(s) just loosen up over time and effort so they should be checked regularly to make sure they’re staying snug – especially on a new bike. In fact, I’ve had to check my Specialized S-Works crank fairly often as well, now that I think of it, and it loosens quite easily with hard riding. That’s a long story for another post, though.
In the case of our tandem, the crank bolt is a two piece bolt. The outer screws into the crank arm and the inner pulls the two crank arms together. When I set my crank, I must have set it perfectly because it’s staying tight. I’ve checked after every ride. My wife’s crank was loose too when mine fell apart, though, and that’s loosened up with every ride we did until I decided loosen the outer bolt so the inner would get more “purchase”, thinking there needed to be more threads engaged on the crankset.
And that was exactly the answer. After our 40-miler Monday, the crank was just as snug when we got back as it was when we left.
And so, a lesson learned.
Hold the Phone! An Even Better Ride on the Tandem… A Monday Crank Up the Jams Ride
We started out Monday’s Memorial Day ride with a bunch of questions. I thought we were going for somewhere between 45 and 50-miles but Mike had it pegged at something like 37. I was hoping for 50 but I could have lived with 40, I told my wife. She was good with whatever we ended up with… as long as it wasn’t more than 50. The time was set for 8am.
We had a fantastic group show up. Mike, Matt, Diane and Jeff on their singles, Ukulele Dave, and we knew Joe was meeting us out on the road – we snapped him up at mile two. Then Phill jumped on, but he’d been riding with two mysterious riders… and I recognized the jersey of one – Greg, when we were still a half-mile out. The other was perplexing. He turned out to be Greg’s neighbor, Kevin. Looks a lot like Todd “Watt King” King. Tall, lanky, powerful-looking. I gulped. My wife said aloud, “Oh, Great! Greg and Todd! Here we go”!
It turned out, Greg isn’t the same way with Kevin as he is with Todd. It didn’t get chippy at all. Normally, when Greg and Todd show up it turns into a Sufferfest video in a matter of minutes (though not as much in the last couple of years, Todd has been through a change of heart and is much more easygoing depending on the group he’s with). Greg and Kevin went to the back and caught up with everyone, then moved through the pace-line talking with each of us. It was very much a casual, social affair and it was fantastic. Greg is always a fun gentleman to ride with – his neighbor, Kevin is as well. In fact, Kevin even came up and talked with Jess and I a bit about riding with his wife and how we get along on the tandem. We gave him the same advice I write about here… which he remarked about. It’s so cool running into someone who says, “oh yeah, you wrote an article about that”.
Thanks, Kevin. You made it worthwhile to write. I appreciate you.
Greg and Kevin split to head home shortly after we chatted, sadly.
We, however, rolled on. We headed south to the sod farm (Van Agen), then east to Byron where we stopped to top off the water bottles in the sun-soaked heat. From there we rolled for home, looking like 40, almost 41 miles.
We’d spent a good bit of time up from and I expected to be wiped out on the way home but my wife and I were absolutely kickin’ it. Into the wind, what little there was, and it was little, we were having to dial it back to maintain 19-20-mph. It was pure awesome sauce.
Taking it to the barn the last three miles, I felt we could have done another ten, easy. Still, it was nice to get home and we didn’t stick around to watch the grass grow.
We pulled into the driveway with an 18.4-mph (29.6 km/h).
I was exceedingly happy with that ride. I thought about it a lot, and let Jess know how I felt. We really worked well together yesterday. It was awesome.
The Sweet Success of Our First Horsey Hundred on the Tandem
The night before the ride, my wife was nervous enough about the 100k on the tandem to make me nervous about the 100k on the tandem. We talked at length about doing the 50 and adding on at the end to get 100k if we felt good enough. My wife almost had me convinced – I even relented, because the route was actually around 65-miles and we’re not the best on the hills. Put us on the flat or on a downhill and we’re hammers. We struggle on the hills and I had no desire to hurt my wife… on the other hand, 100k. Horsey Hundred. [Yes, technically it’s 100 miles but even I knew we couldn’t do that]
We rolled out to a cool but perfect 50-ish° with arm warmers and normal summer kit. With the hills, we’d be sweating in no time.
In the excitement, I went out way too hard and had myself nervous after the first ten miles that 65 might be too much. After eighteen, my legs started protesting and I asked my wife if we could dial it back on the hills a little bit and spin them. Back home, where we have about three legitimate hills, I push a little harder on the way up and my wife gives me a break on the downhill and flats. On the horsey hundred, there’s a hill every 45 seconds, so there’s no break whatsoever and I was pushing way too hard and too often.
We calmed it down around mile 20 and things got decidedly better for us. By contrast, Jess was perfect as the rear admiral. Unfortunately, it seemed Mike and Jonathan got a little bored waiting for us on the ups and then trying to keep up on the downhills. They’d ride up ahead and Mike would come back and collect us now and again.
I was way too focused on all of the little details, mainly because we were topping 30-mph (around 50kph) on the downhills and I had my wife on the back to think of. The new Co-Motion performed admirably, though. It was really awesome, actually. Vastly superior to our old steel Periscope.
About 40-miles in, when I could see that taking it easier on the hills was working wonders, I began to relax and have a little more fun with it. I’d been reassuring my wife along the way but really picked it up after 40. We met up with the main group at a rest stop as they were on the longer 72-mile route and regrouped for all of a few minutes. Jess and I rode our ride and I was finally to a point I could really enjoy it.
As the group pulled away we started talking in between climbs and even on some of the easier uphill efforts.
At the 55-mile mark we were really feeling excited about the ride. We were all by our lonesome and having a fantastic time of it. It was our first Horsey Hundred on our tandem and I’m here to tell you, I’ve never had more fun on a bicycle. We absolutely rocked it.
As we approached the finish, my rear admiral asked if I wanted to finish at the finish line or just head back to the hotel, taking a shortcut. At first I said I wanted to take it to the finish line, but after thinking it over, the hotel sounded better. We made the right turn and skipped the last hill… a leg-burner and ego-bruiser.
We were well over the 62.5 mark by then. 100 kilometers and over 4,200 feet of climbing. On the tandem. I think I might need a couple of days to process exactly how cool it was to ride with my wife on the tandem for such a tough ride – to gut it out together. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to put it into words.
Oh, and the bike performed perfectly.