INTRODUCTION: We created this journal to provide tandem enthusiasts with insight into our experience in breaking-in a new tandem and the associated discovery process with very candid and frank commentary.
The goal was to give others who go down a similar path with their first Calfee -- or perhaps their first custom tandem of any type -- the benefit of a first-hand perspective to demonstrate that even a fairly experienced tandem enthusiast will make mistakes and find things aren't always perfect.
They key to success is, as always, solving issues by realizing where you may have made mistakes, learning new things about your equipment, finding the root cause of performance issues, fine tuning to suit your long-term preferences, and addressing all of these things using a logical and methodical process. Moreover, it will hopefully underscore how important relationships and communication are throughout the lifecycle of the entire process and product.
UPDATE - YEAR FOUR OF OWNERSHIP: Since we routinely receive questions from folks who have read our journal and asked us how our Calfee story has played out since publishing our final Calfee Journal update back on March 28, 2009, I thought it might be worthwhile to publish a periodic update: a long-term ownership update, if you will.
The elevator speech goes something like this: Absolutely no regrets about making our decision to have a Calfee tandem frame built.
The frame has exceeded our expectations in terms of the ride qualities: comfort being #1, handling #2, and responsiveness #3. After all, if it's not comfortable the other two qualities aren't all that meaningful unless it's a purpose-built time-trial machine that's only used for short periods of focused maximum effort and pain. And, when we say "comfortable" we mean the most comfortable tandem we've ever ridden and we've ridden quite a few exceptional tandems that were very comfortable.
In terms of quality, once the initial kinks were worked out vis-a-vis having the eccentric shell updated to a new spec in August '08 (detailed in update #11), we've enjoyed over 12,000 trouble-free, quiet miles. Although we have a little bit of yellowed epoxy caused by UV rays in a few spots, we really have no regrets over the nude finish. It's very low maintenance and hides road grime quite well. It has also made some rework early on a lot more feasible & easy to do since no repaint was needed. As for the yellowing, we should have probably been more diligent with regular applications of Aerospace 303 protectant, so that's on us. Frankly, I think it actually gives the frame a little more character.
In terms of support from Calfee, the attention we received from Craig & James during the first few months after taking initial delivery was excellent and we haven't needed any additional support since August '08: again, the frame has been flawless.
Bottom Line: If we had to replace the Calfee for any reason we'd be hard pressed to replace it with anything other than another Calfee using the same geometry & dimensions Craig developed for our current frame.
Bear in mind that we did not buy a fully-assembled tandem from Calfee, just the frame. I believe we may have even supplied the fork that was used on our Calfee as I had several spares on hand at the time. So, in terms of how the "entire package" has been performing, here are some data points, remembering we were the ones who spec'd, sourced, installed and did all of the adjustments to the components that were attached to the Calfee frame:
Any regrets? Not really. Debbie is VERY fond of the Calfee (as am I) and would only be interested in another tandem if it was somehow more comfortable than the Calfee without giving up performance. I'm not sure what that would be. As for any future changes, I don't see any in the offing. We've ridden a tandem with Di2 and while it worked well I wasn't "blown away" by any perceived improvement in performance or ease of use, so the value proposition is lost on me. However, the folks who have it on their tandems seem to like it a lot, so that probably says more about me than the technology.
So, there you have it, circa Spring 2012. We'll update again next Spring unless something significant happens that warrants an earlier update.
JOURNAL NAVIGATION: We have broken the journal down into separate web pages for each update. The following index will appear at the bottom of each journal page to help readers navigate through the various information and subjects. Bear in mind, most of the material in the journal will be somewhat dated. In certain instances I have gone back and added updates which you'll find in a very distinctive typeface color.
& Overview: Purpose of the Journal, long-term ownership
update & Journal navigation
#1: January 3, 2008: Our Calfee Tetra Tandem Arrives: Background
on why I selected a Calfee and what makes our frame unique.
#2: January 12, 2008: Build 99% Complete... And The First Ride: First impressions on the build-up
and ride qualities as well as a description of the initial components,
the weight, cost, and some other thoughts.
#3: February 10, 2008: First 30 days & 250 miles: Dealing with a new type of eccentric,
trying to resolve some handling issues and working around an
RF interference issue with my stoker's wireless computer.
Update #4: February 24, 2008: First 45 days &
300 miles: Back-to-back
riding comparisons with our Erickson steel tandem and first impressions
of low-spoke count / paired-spoke racing wheels.
#5: March 2, 2008: Ever Wonder How Much Influence Wheels and
Tires Have On Your Tandem's Performance? Our first chance to ride the Calfee with conventional
wheels solves the early handling issues.
#6: March 16, 2008: As The Wheels Turn.... And Other Weighty
Issues: A little more
on wheel comparisons, disc brake rotor clearance, and some final
thoughts on our experience with low-spoke count / paired-spoke
#7: March 30, 2008: And Now For Something Completely Different:
Tandems East's '08 Tandem Expo:
Meeting Craig Calfee for the first time along with several other
industry representatives and enthusiasts while attending one
of the few tandem expos held here in the US.
#8: April 19, 2008: It's the Little Things.... And Some New Wheels: A few tweaks, some different water
bottle cages, and yet another wheel set: these babies are keepers.
#9: May 11, 2008: Back In Black... And More On Wheels: The Calfee takes on a more stealthy
look, an update on the Topolino's and a new set of old wheels:
Rolfs Part Deux.
#10: May 27, 2008: Wheels, Rims, & Unexpected Consequences:
We are so impressed with the Calfee tandem that a 3rd Calfee
bike is added to the family livery, plus updates on wheels, creaks,
and a short photo retrospective on US: 2008 compared to 1997.
#11: August 12, 2008: The
Perfect Ride & The Penultimate Update: After about 8 months and a couple thousand
miles of fine tuning, our Calfee Tetra Tandem is Perfect. This
update includes a summary of the final adjustments made since
May and will likely be the last update before our final, year-in-review
#12: March 28, 2009: The
Final Entry: This is
it, the last installment. A final summary of our impressions
and thoughts on uber-light / performance tandems, our Calfee
and some additional details on disc brake installation, touring
gear and a final installment on our flirtation with exotic wheelsets.