Two Weekday Rides In A Row and Four Rides in a Week! Another Day In Paradise.
Rides this year have been few and far between since my career was jumped to the next tier. I simply don’ t have the time I used to. Well, more correctly, I haven’t figured out how to make the time. Yet. I wrote a while back that I should be trying to fit in a half hour here and there, though, because at least that should be manageable.
Thursday evening, my wife and I figured it out.
We left work a little late (we commute together twice a week) and, as you would expect, got home a little late. I needed a ride, though. I’d come to realize that a lot of the good things I’d been doing for our marriage the last year and a few months had slipped away. It wasn’t purposeful, I simply allowed myself to get wrapped up in work, what has been happening, and what would happen once this job was over. I’ve only got a month and a half left so “what’s next” is starting to weigh on my mind.
Wednesday’s ride was fantastic. Our daughter had a tennis match a couple of towns north of the house so my wife rode her bike to watch the match. When I got out of work, I scooted home and took my bike out to meet her. I got twenty in and it was an enjoyable hammer-fest into the wind and a slow roll home with my wife for the second half. I felt like a Thousand Dollars.
Thursday, we went out with the tandem after work – just like I’d mentioned before, ten miles with a smile. Nothing to get all crazy about, but we had fun together… and enough to keep the legs moving. It was a “gotta take it while we can” rides.
Friday was a day off, then yesterday I took my bike to work. That’s right, I worked a Saturday. Yuck. I rode a nice trail to get almost ten miles in at lunch. I’ve been at the new job for two months, I’ve already worked a full Saturday and part of a Sunday… In all of my 25-year career, I can count the number of Saturdays I worked on one hand! Ah, well.
And Sunday, I had to rush down to Lansing to open the building up for the workers. All things considered, 2 hours of work isn’t all that big a deal, but I still didn’t like it. After unlocking the building, I drove straight back home and got the tandem ready to roll. I’ve been tinkering around with the bike, getting little things straight. Dialing in the rear derailleur’s set screws, Tinkering with the front derailleur’s tension (more on this later), working on the setup for my wife and I… and getting the last little details buttoned up. Yesterday was the day to try it all out.
It was 55° and partly cloudy with an east northeast wind, so we opted for a north-south route to keep us, at least partially, protected from the brunt of the wind. We rolled out shortly after 8:30 in what started out as a chilly morning, but within two miles I was right as… well, sunshine?
Jess and I are getting to be quite dynamic on the new tandem. We’re matching up better than we ever did on the Periscope and riding the new Co-Motion gravel/road rig is pure joy. I’m still marveling at the utility of the flared handlebar. I don’t want to like it. I want to say it’s a gimmick and silly and un-aero… but it’s awesome.
My wife, having ridden five days in a row, was tired. Still, she suited up like a champion and we put foot to pedal and hammered some miles out. I over-pedaled a little bit, knowing she was tired, and we talked about that as we rode. She’ll get a little fired up when I pedal over her, but this time she was cool with it. It was glorious.
Mike and Dale joined us and they were more than willing to jump to the front and take their fair share at the front. It kept the conversation constant and lively. Honest to goodness, it was as good as it gets.
We pulled into the driveway with just shy of 37 miles.
Sadly, this new job is really cramping my riding style. I’m sitting on 125 miles for the month. I should be around 400-500. On the other hand, the money is good now and it’s going to get a lot better in the very near future. And we’re going to need it. I’m hoping for a nice, long retirement!
It was a cap to a very interesting week. I’m taking a day off! Just in time to pull the clubs out and hit the golf course after work this evening.
A Relief of an Evening on a Bicycle.
I haven’t been able to ride much, so I was more than a little jealous that my wife said she’d decided to ride her bike to our daughter’s tennis match when I spoke with her on the phone after lunch yesterday.
That hatched a plan, though. My daughter’s matches regularly go till after 6pm… I wouldn’t have any problem getting home and on the road to ride up to the high school and ride back with my wife. Yesterday was the most beautiful day of 2023. It was perfect. Mild breeze, perfectly sunny, and warm (but not hot).
Things were quiet at work, so I split about 30 minutes after I got the text my wife was rolling out the door.
I was entirely fired up to ride the Venge… but not entirely sold that I was… erm… quite in physical shape to make the most of the wind scalpel. On getting home I set about choosing the clothes I’d wear and getting that side of it straight. Then I went into the bike room and grabbed the Venge by the handlebar, only to realize I didn’t have the radar mount on the bike… and I had no idea where it’d gotten to.
I almost kept up with the Venge prep but knew for certain my wife would be rather perturbed if I showed up without a rear blinkie, so I readied the Trek instead. A couple of water bottles, some air in the tire, my tool pouch (I’ve forsaken the saddle bag except for tours), clothes, shoes, helmet and glasses, and I was out the door.
My legs protested quite a bit under the load. Saturday’s ride had taken a toll but I pushed through it so I could get to my wife and ride with her. Two miles in and my legs were back to their normal status and I was hammering into the crossing headwind.
I caught up to my wife at ten miles in and turned around. We had a relaxing ride home, talking about our day.
The rest of the evening was perfect. Dinner was great, our meeting was great, and we were both ready for sleep when we crawled into bed.
That was exactly what I needed. Now all I have to do is figure out how to work in more of that!
It never ceases to amaze me how good I feel after a bike ride in the late spring.
Tandems and the Dreaded Synchronizing Chain… Enter the Gates Carbon Belt Drive
Our old tandem used a two 8-speed chains (about 1-3/4 actually) as the means of synchronizing the two cranksets.
The 8-speed (x2) synchronizing chain setup works just fine… when you don’t know any better, but it’s heavy and a wee bit noisy. The chain also stretches on a fairly regular basis and for a Co-Motion you need a special Allen key in order to loosen and tighten the retaining bolts on the timing chain side (at lest you do for the eccentric bottom bracket on a Co-Motion tandem – and they’re worth needing the special tool, that bottom bracket is outstanding).
On high-end tandems, however, the upgrade is to a Gates Carbon Timing Belt. The Gates Carbon Timing Belts last multiple times longer than a timing chain (and timing chains last quite a while – ours lasted more than seven years) and there’s a weight savings of between a half of a pound over premium chains and I’d guess as much as a pound when you use standard SRAM 8-speed chains. They’re also shockingly quiet.
Oh, and they never need lube. Never. Just keep ’em clean.
Now, if you’re wondering whether or not you can retrofit or upgrade an old tandem with a Gates Carbon Timing Belt kit, in many cases you can if your tandem isn’t too old and it fits certain perimeters. Check this invaluable FAQ on Co-Motion’s website and click on “The Gates Carbon Drive Timing Belt System” for more information.
In all honesty, it takes a slight bit of getting used to, though. There’s no “play” in the system when it’s properly installed, but it’s not as solid as a properly tensioned chain, either. It simply feels… different. Beyond that, though, thank goodness for the Gates Timing Belt. They’re awesome!
Hands Down, The Best Tandem Saddle I’ve Ever Ridden (My Wife’s New Favorite, Too!)
Our Co-Motion Kalapuya gravel tandem came with a lot of bells and whistles. Everything is top-end on the bike, from the drivetrain to the brakes and wheels, to the… saddles.
Finding the right tandem saddle is crucial because you’ll be spending a lot of time on it. Unlike a single bike, you can’t just stand on the pedals and let the blood flow back into your nether-regions whenever you want. You have to think about your Rear Admiral and they, you. Climbing out of the saddle on a tandem is nothing like on a single bike. It takes impeccable timing and practice.
Anyway, I’ve ridden about five different saddles on tandems over the years. Originally, when we bought our first tandem, I rolled a Selle Italia X2. I could only stand that saddle, no matter how hard I tried to set it perfectly, for twenty miles. It had to go. I briefly, and I mean briefly, tried a carbon fiber saddle that felt good on my Trek but horrible on my Venge and even worse on the tandem, then a Specialized Romin before finally settling on a Specialized Toupe Sport that came on my gravel bike. That saddle really seemed to work and I had every intention of swapping out whatever came on our Co-Motion gravel bike.
Just for kicks, Jess and I talked it over and decided to give the saddles that came on the Kalapuya a try. I set the bike up and we gave it a roll. Some adjustments later and I knew I was keeping the Selle Italia X3 that came on the bike. It was astonishingly comfortable.
Now, I’m fairly easy. There are saddles that work and saddles that don’t. They’re fairly easy to discern. My wife, however, can like or hate a saddle based on a millimeter here or there. She’s exceedingly fickle. For that reason alone, I hoped, but not too much, that she’d like the feminine model of the saddle.
I set her saddle up a lot like mine but with more tilt for reasons I’ve discussed in previous posts. I’d taken measurements from our previous tandem but, considering the difference in geometry between our old and new rigs, I decided to set the tandem up like I did her newest road bike. From there, over the course of seven or eight rides, we fine-tuned the setup and got her to a point she likes that saddle the most out of all her other saddles. I’m absolutely stoked that she’s as happy with her new saddle as I am with mine.
I never would have guessed we’d have that much good fortune, but there it is.
Our Selle Italia X3 and X3 Boost (the female version) saddles are absolutely outstanding tandem saddles.
The X3 is mine, on the left. The X3 Boost is my wife’s, on the right. The Boost is a short-nosed saddle and obviously has a larger cutout which, I’d assumed, would be a negative in terms of my wife (she’s not a fan of the cutouts). That’s not the case with the X3 Boost, though. That saddle is a homerun as far as my wife is concerned.
Our Longest Ride of 2023… On the New Tandem to Get Ready for the Horsey Hundred Weekend. With Two Good Friends.
The pick day for the weekend was undoubtedly Saturday. We’re expecting rain to last into the morning hours but we should be able to get a short ride in after things dry up a bit, though.
We rolled the tandem, shiny, and only 170-miles new, to a gloriously sunny morning. The wind was out of the south-southeast and we had a decent route for it. We work arm and knee warmers and our matching DALMAC 50-year Golden Anniversary jerseys. We match all the way down to our water bottles when we’re on the tandem. I love matching kits on the tandem (and Jess likes it a lot more than she’s willing to admit).
It was a great start, with a crossing tailwind to warm up with… because the next part was going to hurt. Fifteen miles straight into the wind. We kept a decent pace but it was brutal, and it was capped with a hill at the turn west that, after the short climb and stopping at the corner store, had me doubled over resting my elbows on my saddle.
The next six miles were pleasant with a nice, little crossing tailwind. Heading into Oak Grove from the east is an absolute blast. Lots of downhill and some tight corners that are heaven on earth on a tandem. We started down the approach hill and quickly dropped Chuck and Mike as we rocketed toward the first turn.
I want to take a quick side bar here, to tell you how spectacular my wife is on the back of the tandem. Not only are we much better matched in terms of output, she’s developed a gift, to absolutely lay down the power, without a word, exactly when I need her. And with that, let’s rejoin the action.
A truck passed us just before the downhill and he pulled away from us for a second, but the township speed limit is 25-mph and we were hammering down the hill at 32 (more than 50 km/h). Thankfully I was looking up because that truck was hitting the brakes because another was backing a trailer into his driveway, blocking the road.
I grabbed two handfuls of brake and hollered out, “BRAKING, BRAKING, BRAKING” and pulled. Without breaking the tires free, we bled 23-mph from our speed with surprising ease. Let me tell you exactly how pleased I am we chose top-of-the-line brake calipers and rotors! Once the road cleared, we eased by and continued on our merry way.
And that served up the real treat. Eleven glorious miles of warmth, high speeds and tailwind. That eleven miles is why the bike industry survives as it does. We let the fellas take most of the time up front and I enjoyed the cruise. Jess, however, was leaning toward making hey while we had a little help with the wind.
We had a decent average at 17-1/2-mph, but I could sense I was starting to wear thin. You know when you can feel the cramps starting in your legs, like your body saying, “Hey, listen, if you keep this shit up too much longer, I’m gonna hurt you. Don’t make me hurt you.” That’s where I was. Painsville, bro; Population me!
We managed the last six miles in style. Not too fast, but we certainly weren’t waiting for the freshly mowed grass to grow back, either. 47+ miles and we’re confident the Horsey Hundred is doable.
Jess and I spent the rest of the day, smiles on our faces, reflecting on the awesomeness that was our morning ride… and how much we enjoy riding together.
Tinkering on Our Tandem
One of the many things I love about new bike day is that I know I’m going to have ample tinker time with the new steed. In the case of a tandem, that tinker time is doubled (if not a little more because setting up a bike for someone else is a lot more… erm… delicate and time consuming). The initial setup took a couple of days. The fine-tuning took the better part of two weeks. Ah, the glory of it all!
After the setup, I had to mess with set screws (front and rear derailleur, not much, a quarter turn here, a quarter there), I set the seat heights and setbacks, got familiar with our Ultegra clutch rear derailleur, the new cable retention system for a front derailleur (which is quite cool), setting the new disc brakes, including installing the rotors and building the road wheels up, I’ve done it all in the last few weeks.
First, after a couple of weeks of riding the bike, the new derailleurs (Ultegra R-8000) are quite sweet and offer impeccable shifting. I know, before we even get started, I should have opted for the Di2 shifting (or the vastly superior, SRAM wi-fly or eTap as it’s known). I know, it’s better. I know. It also would have made an $11,000 bike $13,000… and Co-Motion doesn’t offer a 2x eTap drivetrain, only 1x. For the Di2 setup, I really don’t want something I can’t fix in the middle of a tour. Getting a connection soldered isn’t among those field-ready tasks that can be completed without some gunpowder, a foil gum wrapper and a waterproof match… none of which I carry in our saddlebag. Though, now that I think of it we might need a bigger saddlebag.
After the derailleurs, I got into the brakes a little deeper. Initially, I simply set the wheels up with new rotors, then set the calipers so they wouldn’t rub. From there it was just “ride and repeat” until we caught a rub after taking the front wheel off a couple of times. I got into all of the little intricacies with setting the brakes and feel confident with much of the bike now. Most of it, really.
I’m sure I’ll have a little more tinkering to do and I’ve got the bike stand set to handle it, but for now, we’re getting very close to set it and forget it.
I hope not too close.
Are TRP Spyre MECHANICAL Disc Brakes The Best Thing Since SRAM eTap? Experts Agree… They’re Pretty Freaking Good!
As can happen when removing and reinstalling a front wheel for the first time, say to a brand new tandem that you’re transporting to the start of the ride, sometimes you get a rub after you’ve reinstalled the wheel. This happened the first time we moved our last tandem, too. It was just making sure the clearance was right and even. Once that task was done, the problem never came back.
Now, for the new tandem, we’ve got the upgraded TRP Spyre brakes so it took a second to figure out the setup. The pad in and pad out holes (there’s one on each side of the caliper – how cool is that?) are a little tricky to get a handle on at first. They’re marked on the outside with a 3mm, the size of the Allen key required to adjust the pad in or out. The trick is, the actual part that accepts the Allen key is behind a face plate. It took me a second to figure this out but once I did, adjusting the brake pads was a snap.
Paired with Shimano ICE MT-800 centerlock rotors, the combo is fantastic. The pull from our Ultegra shifters is almost as good as the hydraulic brakes on my mountain bike. I’m not exaggerating, either. The TRP calipers are surprisingly responsive, modulate well and stop excellently.
For years, I’d seen our friends on their high-end tandems and wondered how good the TRP Spyre brake calipers were (Co-Motion tandems on the high-end have come with Spyre brakes for some time). I especially wondered why none of them had hydraulic brakes on their high-end road tandems. Now I know: They’re amazing and I don’t know as hydraulic brakes are even necessary as good as the mechanical set is. They’re that good. I can’t recommend them highly enough.
Now, as a side note, I wouldn’t look into who exactly owns TRP. Let’s just say my jaw hit the floor.
FINALLY! A Wonderful Weekend on the Tandem
With all of our medical stuff cleared up but work looming in the back of each of our melons, we had a weird Saturday. The weather wasn’t all that great in the morning and I had a haircut scheduled for the early afternoon so, as soon as it started clearing up, I had to leave. My wife worked while I was gone and was deep into it by the time I got back. I did some household chores while she finished up and we headed out for a late afternoon jaunt. Just twelve miles was all we could fit in on the chilly afternoon. It was nice to be back on the bike again.
Sunday was better. It started off rainy but had dried up by 11 and we had the cycling club’s annual new member and election party which starts off with a ride. Obviously, we brought the tandem. A quick warmup to kill our average and we were off just after noon. We ate a ton of headwind but it was nice that we didn’t have a fast group. We could keep a fair, but easy, pace. We were on the time trial portion of the Tuesday night ride – a 21-mile fast loop with not much in the way of hills and easy turns that don’t get too bogged down with traffic. The rest of the group split for longer routes but we had things to do to get ready for the party… we took the two Mikes and, with a pile of tailwind, beat a path for the church.
We started off a little slow but worked up to a decent 22-mph pace that increased once we hit the home stretch. We were holding 23 to 24-mph through the last three miles but started creeping it up as we neared the final 500 meter sprint to the City Limits sign. My wife and I are so much faster on the new tandem… she asked me if we were on the last corner on the second-to-last corner. I said, winded, “Not yet, next one”.
Then, about 250 meters before we should have, I could feel my wife put down the watts. I figured, “what the hell” and matched her. Our speed bounced from 25-mph to 29 and it was on.
Oh, how we can lay down the power on that bike… and how it responds! We hammered it to the City Limits over 30-mph with the two Mikes in tow but trying to come around. Thankfully, Mike K had forgotten his batteries at home so he was single-speeding the ride and could only hit 30-mph if he was cranking a cadence north of 140. No chance he was coming around, though he tried!
The victory mile back to the parking lot was fantastic as we recounted our favorite parts (which mainly centered around the tailwind sections!).
The weather has been anything but cooperative but it’s starting to change for the better. By the end of this week we should be into some much better weather for putting miles in… and not a moment too soon! I’m getting tired of this “dad body”. It’s gotta go!
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…