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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!

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.

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.

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.