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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.

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.

Ready for the Horsey Hundred… On A Tandem(!)

We’re heading down to Kentucky for our annual trip to do the Horsey Hundred, one of the best supported rides in all the United States. We’ve been making the trip since 2014 or ‘15 with the exception being the Covid year.

This year will be different from all the others, though. This year we’re taking our new Co-Motion tandem.

I’m giddy but my wife is nervous about the hills. This isn’t the same terrain we’re used to. With a 50/34 compact crank and an 11-40 cassette, I believe we have enough gear for anything we might run into down here.

The bike is prepped and ready to go. The chain is lubed and everything is dialed in.

Let the good times roll! More later.

And Just Like That, The Tandem Is Ready to Roll

The Co-Motion is ready for riding. The last of the new parts came in yesterday and I put the bike back together after work.

It’s just like it was before the crank fell apart Saturday… only the cranks are tight now.

Jess and I are stoked everything came together so quickly after the mess over the weekend.

Let the good times roll!

Putting the Tandem Together Again

Our rear derailleur came in yesterday for the tandem. It was my late night at the jobsite, so I didn’t get to start dialing it in until after 9 last night. This one was a little trickier than I was expecting but I got it together and properly set before 10 (or just thereabouts).

Our Gates parts are due in tomorrow, so they’ll go on the bike as soon as I get home from work and we should be set for Horsey.

Fingers crossed!

A Fantastic Fifty… On the Single Bikes?!

Every long ride I’ve done since last August at the Assenmacher 100 has been done captaining a tandem with my wife in the rear admiral position.

With the tandem down for repairs, we had no choice but to take the singles out for a spin. I’ve made much ado over how I finally learned to ride with my wife so we can both have a marvelous time, no matter what the pace. It was employed yesterday and we had an awesome time. We needed that for Horsey.

The weather was perfect and the traffic heavy but polite (for the most part).

My wife just said I was a sight to behold, that rainbows must have literally shot out my butt as I helped her up many of the hills.

Folks, it was good times and noodle salad.

Now to get that tandem put back together! The tandem is WAY easier than singles! And more fun.

What You Need to Know About Buying, Riding and Fine-Tuning a New Bike; Also, “It’s Tandem Time, Baby”!

If you’ve dropped a good bit of money on a bicycle and you think, because you paid upwards of several Thousand Dollars, the bike will be problem free for the foreseeable future, you’ll have to think again… and likely a lot sooner than you’d think.

When you bring a new bike home from the shop, the chance it’s properly perfectly tuned and ready to roll is somewhere between slim and none. I suppose, before I really dig into this post, I should clarify that I’m exceedingly picky that our bikes (my wife and my bikes) are operating at their peak.

It usually starts out like this; you bring a new bike home, ride it a time or two, and things start creaking or rubbing or the derailleurs don’t shift quite as crisply as the bike settles in. Most shops give a free one month checkup to readjust things after they settle.

I’ve never taken a bike in for its one month. I can’t last that long knowing I’ve got something that needs correcting. I’d guess that the electric groupsets are a little less problematic, but I really wouldn’t know, it’d just be a guess. Mechanical groupsets, however, I do know something about and they require some tinkering. I’ve been working on our tandem, little changes here and there, for the better part of a month.

Today will be our first ride on the tandem where I’m totally pleased with the mechanics of the bike. The front brake was a quarter turn on the left pad too tight, the derailleurs were a half-turn (or so) off on the set screws, the rotors are trued, the calipers are set where I want them… and there are no mysterious “clicks” in the rear derailleur and the front only needs to be trimmed on the last two (smallest) cogs on the back and doesn’t rub in any other gear but the small/small combination (as it should, it doesn’t rub on the derailleur, it rubs the big chainring from being cross-chained).

The real question is, would our tandem have sufficed as it was when we rode it the first time? Well, it was really nice that first ride, but the adjustments needed to happen to really make the bike ride how we wanted it.

It’s been like this for every bike I’ve owned. Every bike my wife has owned except one (her Assenmacher is the lone exception – that bike was perfect right out of the back of my wife’s SUV) but that bike is a 2004 and was kept after quite well)… every other bike we’ve ever brought home has required a little tinkering.

The key is knowing this is coming and enjoying the process of sorting it out!

UPDATE: On a crazy fluke, the front crank fell apart on our ride today. Check the crank bolts are tight. Often.

GOLFIN’, Baby! Back on the Sticks in 2023!

Getting old partially sucks in that I can’t do things I used to do without a care in the world, without experiencing some pain tied to it… like golf. It’s also tricky having so many freaking expensive hobbies. But I digress.

As fate (or something) had it, I had an opportunity to hit a golf course with one of my new colleagues Monday after work. Now, it may seem odd, that after eight days of work in a row I would want to do anything other than sleep after work, but it is golf we’re talking about here.

I am fully back to loving the sport after the heartbreak of missing the fun of golfing with my dad. It’s taken almost a full decade, but I’m healed. The trick, of course, is finding the time to fit golf in, and golf is absolutely going to take a back seat to cycling. I’m much better on a bike than I am with a set of clubs on my back.

That said, there’s nothing like absolutely ripping a drive down the center of the fairway. Nothing. In fact, I’m going to drop a little bit of a logic grenade right here; you’ll hear a lot of good players perpetuate the quote, “you drive for show, but you putt for dough”. Those good players are absolutely right. And entirely full of it at the same time. For the really good players, when you already drive and hit your irons great, you pick shots up on your opponent by putting less.

If, however, you’re a weekend or occasional duffer like me, there’s nothing like lacing one down the fairway 275 yards your first time out… just like I did the other day… like four times. That’s what keeps me coming back.

I had quite a few par holes Monday. Vastly better than I’d expected. And the cherry on top is that I’m over the heartbreak of losing my dad and best golfing buddy.

Oh, how nice it is to be back on the sticks!

The Best Tires for Tandem Road Cycling – From Size to Brand (And What to Avoid!).

My wife and I have a lot of experience on tandems over the last eight-ish years. We rode Continental Grand Sport tires for the first four years or so before changing to Specialized Turbo Pro tires when we, I kid you not, rode the Continentals do the Kevlar. Not one flat. Ever. However, one ride on the Turbo Pros and we’ll never look back.

Now, if you want fast tires, you could do worse than Continental. However, if you like a little bit of comfort in your ride, you can’t do worse than Continental. Continental tires are very fast because they’re very hard and unforgiving. You’ll feel every bump and on a tandem, where you’re stuck in the saddle, feeling every pebble gets old in a hurry. That’s where we get into the “real world” vs “test world” differences in tires. Hard, unforgiving tires are fast on a steel roller but they sap energy on a road with imperfections. On a tandem, that’s amplified.

For that reason, my wife and Rear Admiral agrees, Continental tires are not fun.

Specialized Turbo Pro tires are fantastic on a tandem, though the science says you’ll give up a few watts for that comfort. Of course, if you know how that works in real life (opposed to a roller in a factory setting), the watt-loss for a supple tire is a fair tradeoff because comfortable is fast.

We’re currently riding Bontrager Hardcase Lite R3 32mm TLR tires and are enjoying them massively. They allow our tandem to corner like it’s on rails and the ride is exceedingly comfortable. As with all Bontrager tires, you give a few watts up over the faster tires (Vittoria, etc.), but with a tandem, puncture protection is at a premium and puncture protection normally adds watts.

Tubeless or not tubeless?

There’s the issue of tubeless tires that has to be discussed. We’re rolling tubeless ready tires for the road but we’ve got tubes. Why? Well, at higher pressures, should you get a puncture, the liquid latex will spray all over your bike till the hole seals. Erm… no thanks. We do have tubeless for our gravel wheels and tires (45mm set at 50psi). I have no doubt tubeless would be more comfortable on the road tires, but I’ll take the “no liquid latex on the frame” benefit over a small (if even perceptible) difference in comfort.

Tire width.

Now, I ride 24mm tires on my Trek road bike (the frame, from 1999, only allows for 25mm, and barely). I ride 26mm tires on my Specialized road bike (28s are max but the clearance is questionable for 28s). My wife and I have a lot of experience with a wide range of wheels and tires. I’ve ridden 28s, 30s and 32s on our tandems and I’ll keep this simple; 30s and 32s are best in a road setting.

The 32mm Bontrager R3 TLR tires we’re running now are phenomenal. They’re fast and comfortable. We ran 30mm Turbo Pro tires from Specialized on our last tandem and those were fantastic as well. Not a single puncture and thousands of miles of comfortable riding (I do rotate the tires). I’d never ride anything that wide on a single road bike because I like sprinting a lot and anything more than a 26mm tire gets too bouncy for me when putting the power down out of the saddle. On a tandem, though, they’re butter. And butter, as we all know, is good.

Tire Pressure.

Pressure is a tricky subject that I don’t typically weigh in too heavy on. I do take fair care to make sure whatever I’m riding is as low as it can go without bouncing when I sprint. With our tandem, our Rolf wheels come with a lovely little sticker on the rim that gives “max” pressures for certain tire sizes. Their max for 32s is 85 psi. I run ours there. They’re comfortable and feel fast and we haven’t gotten a pinch flat yet, so I think that’s where we should be. Easy enough. My wife and I are not what you would call “skinny”. Rider weight must always be taken into account for tire pressure. It’s a pretty simple equation, though.

So, if you’re looking for a good tandem tire, Bontrager and Specialized make great options. Just remember this; on a tandem, you want puncture protection. It’s worth a few watts.