Dateline: January 12th
First Impressions: Rather
than sharing my comments, let me share Debbie's... as they truly
conveyed the first impressions:
"I had no idea I would
notice that big of a difference."
"That's the best ride
I've ever had... on any bike"
"What other tandem?
This is the only one I want to ride"
know what my next single bike will be"
"It just felt lighter,
faster, and easier to ride"
"Tell me more about
that beautiful-looking bamboo tandem"
Looking back on Debbie's initial
impressions from our first rides on our Tetra Tandem, it was
always a question of "when" not "if" Debbie
would end up with her own Calfee.
It took several months of monitoring
Ebay and other on-line resources but an unfinished (nude) 48cm
Calfee Luna Pro frameset with a new Alpha Q fork finally came
up for sale at a reasonable price. My '98 Erickson single bike
became the parts donor as it no longer sees much use and is now stored in an upstairs
closet along with a '98 Bianchi Mega XL TdF replica frameset.
As for her first impressions
compared to her Ritchey? As you'd expect, "I can't believe
how much a difference there is! Thank you, thank you, thank you!"
And this gem, "I braced myself for the really bad
bumps going across the bridges and they were hardly noticable.
I was amazed and I feel great now instead of beat up like I usually
do after my ride." So, the Ritchey will be relegated
to stationary training duties and Debbie is otherwise thrilled
with her new Calfees: tandem and solo.
Anyway, what does any of this
have to do with our Calfee tandem? Well, as you'll recall the
test bed for our Calfee tandem was a second hand (maybe even
third hand) Calfee Tetra Pro I acquired as a way of gaining some
first hand experience with a Calfee carbon frameset before jumping
into a Tetra tandem. The acquisition of the Custom Tetra tandem
is prima fascia evidence of the very positive impression I was
left with after going back and forth on my benchmark for the
'perfect bike" -- the recently retired Erickson Signature
-- my Dean Castanza, and the Tetra Pro. Up and until we took
delivery of the Calfee tandem, Debbie politely listened to my
attempts to describe the differences in how the Tetra Pro handled
and felt vs. the Erickson but remained skeptical there could
be that much difference. Well, her first ride on the Tetra tandem
clearly make a lasting impression. Moreover, after spending weekends
enjoying her new found comfort on the back of the Calfee tandem,
her beloved Ritchey Road Logic just wasn't rockin' her world.
The only solution was to complete the Calfee collection by acquiring
one for Debbie.
So, yes, we have been very
impressed by our Calfee ownership experience. Thankfully, through
the magic of eBay, we have been able to ease some of the pain
associated with our Calfee Family Plan.
So, what's new in the wacky
world of wheels?
In yet another retrospective
on previous Journal entries you may recall from Update #6 I had something of an issue with
the cited weight of Velocity USA's Deep-V rims.
you can see at right, this Deep-V rim weighs in at 577 grams,
which is consistent with two other spares I have here at the
house. Back in March I sent a note to Velocity USA to mention
the Deep-V rim weights listed on their Web site seemed a bit
on the low side @ 520 grams compared to the last five that I'd
purchased which weigh in at 577 grams.
The Velocity rep stated he'd
pulled a silver anodized Deep-V rim off the shelf and weighed
it to be 522 grams. He went on to note the anodized and machined
rims would have different weights than, say, powder coated and
non-machined rims, and that the number of spoke holes also factored
into the rim's weight. However, to establish the catalog weight
they randomly pulled a number of different Deep-V rims to come
up with the average weight they based their catalog numbers against.
The latter was interesting, but
it seemed to defy logic in the face of my three (3) 577 gram
Deep-Vs with their anodized with machined sidewalls still falling
well off the "average".
did a little more poking around while waiting with fingers crossed
that a new wheelset to be built using new Deep-Vs would in fact
come in closer to the cited 520 grams. Based on my inquiries
I found at least one other tandem enthusiast on the Hobbes list
had just recently purchased a pair of silver Deep-V rims with
24h spoking where the rims weigh 525 grams and 530 grams, respectively.
Well, the new wheels and spare
rim finally made their way to my garage on May 26 and low-and-behold,
the spare rim was EXACTLY 520 grams !!! As you can imagine I
was both elated and surprised: elated with the 2,050 gram weight
of the White Industries / Velocity Deep-V tandem wheelset but
surprised at how much variability there was between my older
Velocity Deep-Vs and the new one.
No matter, just good to see
the rim weight being right where it should be. I'll need to send
a follow-up to the gentleman at Velocity to close the loop on
my earlier conundrum. Oh, and there is a bit more breathing room
around the disc rotor and left chain stay with the new wheels:
that too is a welcome feature. More to follow as soon as I can
wean myself off of our Topolino wheelset. Speaking of which...
Topolino vs. Rolfs Update:
We've been putting most of
our tandem miles on the Topolino wheelset while waiting for our
conventional daily use wheels to be finished. I must say, I've
grown quite fond of the Topolino wheels. Although the name Topolino
was chosen quite literally because it is synonymous with 'Mickey
Mouse' , the AX 3.0-Ts are anything but.
We used the Topolinos on the
first two days of the '08 Georgia Tandem Rally down in Albany,
GA. On the first day we did have one issue with the front wheel
pertaining to a persistent noise that happened on each and every
revolution of the wheel. Having experienced a similar noise on
our Mavic CXP30 deep section rims back in '98, I recalled the
source was just a little too much room around the very long valve
stem allowing the valve to move around. Before heading out on
Day 2 of GTR I removed the tire and tube and wrapped the valve
stem with a single layer of electrician's tape before reinserting
it in the rim. No noise on Day 2 or since then on rides from
For Day 3 we fitted our now
stealthy and decal-less '07 Rolf Prima Vigor Tandem wheelset.
Far more predictable than the '08 Rolf Prima Vigor wheeleset
they replaced, the '07 Rolfs felt right at home on the flat,
non-technical terrain around Albany. As for any major change
in performance due to their low drag design, the jury is still
out. Again, they seem to roll quite nicely, but we've just not
been able to quantify any net improvement in our performance
vs the Topolino wheelset.
Now, having also used the Rolfs
a bit more here around our home in North Georgia where we have
some technical riding conditions I have found even the '07 Rolfs
lack some of the stability and control afforded by the Topolino
wheelset once the terrain becomes technical. The '07 Rolf wheels
corner predictably and seem to track fairly well; however, they
just don't inspire the level of confidence I find with conventionally
spoked 36h wheels or even the Topolino wheelset.
Therefore, at least for now,
I've somewhat concluded the Rolfs will be pressed into use primarily
for rides that will be on fairly flat and straight terrain, whereas
the Topolino wheels will be used for moderate climbing and technical
rides. Serious mountain rides will call for our conventional
wheelset with the disc rotor added for good measure.
Squawks, squeaks, and creaks:
Unfortunately, I still find
myself on the hunt for a persistent and annoying 'creaking' sound
that seems to be coming from my front cranks / bottom bracket
/ eccentric / or pedals. Well, actually, it's really more of
a clicking sound.
By process of elimination and
swapping out various parts, the list of suspects continues to
narrow. My earlier conclusion that it was possibly caused by
a bad interface between a set of daVinci cranks designed to work
with JIS standard bottom bracket square tapers that were at one
point fitted to a pair of ISO standard bottom brackets no longer
seems to be feasible.
we had discoveed that Calfee implemented a design change for
their eccentric that would allow for the use of a Bushnell eccentric.
Calfee was able to retrofit the new standard into our tandem.
Some of the noises that we were chasing seemed to disappear with
that change and with those noises gone a 'clicking' sound that
I had attributed to the daVinci cranks turned out to be coming
from the lower front S&S coupling. A generous application
of teflon grease and re-torquing the front coupler vanquished
that last noise. It's now smooth and quiet sailing on the Calfee.
Instead, my attention is presently
focused on the interface between the Speedplay Frog's threaded
axle and the threads on the daVinci cranks. The titanium Frog
pedal axles seem to have a loose fit and it could be there is
just enough play between the pedal axle and crank arm to allow
the joint to move & and create a clicking sound on every
revolution of the left and right cranks.
As a quick check of this theory,
yesterday afternoon I swapped out a spare set of stainless steel
Speedplay Frogs that also seemed to generate the same noise as
the titanium frogs for a pair of my Campagnolo Pro Fit pedals.
While we didn't have enough day light remaining to go for an
extended ride to proof the fix, I was able to do some up and
down the street rides with maximum braking applied to the rear
wheel to load up the pedal/crank interface. With the Campy pedals
there was no discernible noise: oh what a relief that was. With
this in mind, I reinstalled the Speedplay Frogs using several
wraps of yellow Teflon pipe tape to firm up the interface and
the clicking seemed to be gone on a subsequent test ride up and
down our street. Again, fingers crossed -- this will hopefully
be 'the fix' that puts this particular disconcerting noise behind
See previous note for root cause.
Now, less anyone get the idea
that I'm completely rationale, this persistent noise has had
me ready to 'ditch' the Calfee a number of times: it's just that
frustrating. So, in the event you too have been driven to the
edge by an annoying sound coming from your tandems, know that
you're hardly alone. Moreover, the more you spend on your tandem
the greater the angst you direct toward your pride and joy when
things aren't as they should be.
Well, I think I'm truly at-one
with our eccentric. There have been some moments, to include
a recent bottom bracket with a completely frozen fixing cup.
I'm not sure what happened. The plan was to take the bottom bracket
and cranks from the Erickson -- which I know were as quiet as
a church mouse -- and install them on the Calfee as a way of
isolating those components from the suspect list for the aforementioned
drive train noise. I can change a bottom bracket with my eyes
closed, so I didn't give it a second thought when I swapped out
the Phil Wood Ti BB for a Shimano UN72. No Loctite and a little
grease was all that I used when installing the fixing and adjusting
cups as the fit was pretty good. After riding the tandem twice
and finding that the clicking sounds still hadn't been vanquished
by the change, I opted to switch the components back. Well son-of-a-gun,
that right fixing cup wasn't' coming out.
Without going into all of the
gory details, thankfully the fixing cup did not block access
to the eccentric's set screws so even with the bottom bracket
firmly stuck in the right half of the eccentric, the entire eccentric
could still be removed from the frame so we weren't quite at
DefCon 1. Instead, looking ahead to what it would likely take
to extract the stuck cup, I decided to order a spare eccentric
and bolts "just in case" the original didn't come out
of the procedure in fully serviceable condition.
A Email to Craig at Calfee
had a new eccentric on the way the very next day and a few days
later it arrived. However, much to my amazement, it was the wrong
size?! In fact, it was a full 3mm larger in diameter which, coincidentally,
was the same size as two spare Bushnell eccentrics I had sitting
at the house. I called Craig back and he confirmed they had just
recently changed the size of their eccentric shell and eccentrics
to be compatible with the Bushnell eccentric and they had apparently
sent me one of the newer and larger diameter eccentrics. The
correct size eccentric was popped into the mail the very next
day and it arrived today, May 27th. I immediately removed the
crippled Shimano UN72 and eccentric 'assembly' and installed
the new Calfee eccentric and my front crank's Phil Wood BB with
nary an issue. Well, OK, I still need to install a half-link
in the timing chain to get the eccentric in a neutral position,
but that's it for those nits.
The original eccentric with
it's stuck Shimano UN72 fixing cup went into a 4" bench
vice and after a lengthy bath of flame from a torch and a little
help from a 10" breaker bar attached to a heavy-duty Shimano
BB socket, the fixing cup finally broke free. The eccentric and
Shimano UN72 BB are both doing fine following the procedure and
will live to be used again.
in August for a description of the eccentric retrofit that permitted
the use of a Bushnell eccentric which was more to my liking and
the Calfee has been 'perfect' ever since.
Not much else, actually. The
Calfee Tetra tandem is GREAT! In fact, we'll probably hop back
on the Erickson as soon as I solve the creaky crank / pedal issue
just to get rebaselined on how different the Calfee is from the
As noted right up front in
this update, our enjoyment of the Calfee frames has now led to
the addition of a 3rd Calfee for Debbie and we're pretty sure
that was also a good change. Debbie didn't actually start riding
her own single road bike until right around 2000 after we had
an on-bike disagreement about pedal cadence. Yep, I'm still paying
for that one (figuratively and literally).
Finally, a good friend from
Indiana who goes by the nom de plume 'counselguy' recently sent
along a photo he took of us at the Tandems East Expo back in
late Mach. We had just returned from riding the self-guided 17
mile loop ride around Elmer, New Jersey with Beryl Brodsky &
Tom Fritz of Virginia when much to our surprise John pulled up
in the parking lot.
we are circa March 2008: Grandparents X3 with our seventh
tandem standing along side our '06 black Toyota Tundra SR5 double
cab 'tandem hauler.'
What struck me about this photo
was how rare it was to see just us in a photo with our tandem
and without helmets. In fact, it reminded me of one taken nearly
11 years ago just before heading off for our first-ever organized
ride on the tandem.
And, here it is... Mark
& Debbie circa August '97: With our youngest still in
high school, riding our first tandem -- a '96 Santana Arriva
-- and standing along side our '89 black Toyota SR5 Extra cab
tandem hauler. Funny how some things simply evolve instead really
Seriously though, while we've
changed some hardware and matured a bit over the past decade,
our love for each other has only continued to grow. Sharing our
time together on the tandem has played a very large part in our
history with each other. Moreover, we are both looking forward
to many, many more years of enjoying each others company on the
back of our bicycles built for two.