Fifty Plus (50+) - The New Tandem
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01-23-09, 11:27 PM
This afternoon it was 85 degrees so Mrs. Mono and I had our first real ride on the new (to us) tandem. Its a 2002 Burely Rock-N-Roll Softride. Other than one short trip around the block this was the first time either of us had ridden a tandem. We did 10 miles, including one climb of about a half mile with 200 feet or so of climbing. I don't have a computer on the bike just yet, but I tried to keep the speed below about 20 mph to minimize the stoker's terror factor.
We had been wanting to buy a tandem for some time, but finding a used tandem in a size that would fit us proved to be a challenge inasmuch as she is taller than I with a longer inseam. The Burley seemed to fit our needs. It has 26 inch wheels with Vederstein 26x1.3 tires, mountain type bars, and the beam gives us a wide range of saddle height for her. We changed the stoker's saddle to a foam cushion cruiser type until she gets used to the ride. It is still a little close to the pedals and probably needs to be raised a little more and/or moved back a touch. Now we have approximate numbers so the next order is a new stoker stem and bar as the drop is far too much for her. I changed the front saddle to an almost new Terry Liberator Y that I had on hand. The 105 front DR is linked to a SRAM micro-indexed twist shifter, which is how the mountain bars work with the road DR. The rear DR is XT. Brakes are LX V-brakes. Rear cassette is 11-30, but I have a new 13-32 that will be installed in the near future. I'm thinking of changing the front DR and putting a set of XT rapid fire shifters on the bike. I also installed a double legged kickstand that I use for touring, and it has proven very convenient for a couple of newbies like us.
I ride several thousand miles a year, mostly on a touring bike, and she rides a few hundred miles on a comfort/hybrid as well as walking or jogging almost every day. So we each have a few adjustments to make.
No bones were broken nor blood let on this first trip. We practiced getting on, getting off, and starting and stopping several times in the back yard on the grass before we hit the asphalt.
We don't climb very fast.
We go downhill real fast. The tandem coasts downhill like a bat-out-of-you-know-where. And it just keeps going and going.
If we keep it up I'll be adding a drum brake with barcon. The rims heated up much quicker than I expected.
We could also use some travel agents on the V-brakes.
Little kids and grown-ups smile and point a lot.
It takes a lot of effort to steer. I wore a blister on my left thumb. I'm glad we didn't try to start with a drop bar road tandem.
The micro-index shifter is akin to friction shifting for the front DR. It seemed like I had to work a lot to keep the front DR from rubbing, and you can't just look down and check it.
A little wider set of tires wouldn't hurt. The Vedersteins are in pretty good shape, but I think a set of 26x1.5 Schwalbe Marathon Racers would give us a little more cushion.
The biggest problem with the current set up are the low stoker bars. This short ride caused Mrs. Mono to have swelling in her left arm due to lymphedema. We knew this would be a problem. Her usual ride is a Giant Cypress DX with the bars several inches above the saddle. Several years ago she had Stage II invasive ductal carcinoma which involved a lumpectomy and sentinel node biopsy. This was followed by a second surgery to remove additional cancerous lymph nodes. So stress or strain on the affected arm can really cause it to swell. Hopefully we can fix this and get the bars up to seat height or higher. I've already talked with a couple of tandem shops about an extended stoker stem and a raised mountain type bar. We don't want to race, we just want to ride together. She also asked if I would post to see if any of the other ladies here have had a similar problem. I'll make a separate post but if anyone knows of someone who cycles and struggles with lympedema we would like to hear from them.
01-24-09, 12:32 AM
Wow, your stoker bars are low. We have a different setup on our Burley Duet. It's a stem that extends but has a rise in it. Plus cowhorn bars that go around my cheeks to eliminate interference. The bars are along my sides. Yours do look low. I'd swap the stem if I were you, maybe the bars too. I've seen them on sites and don't seem to expensive. Just don't remember where.
I covered Gina's bars with that black foam padding used on beachsruiser type bikes. Cheap, maybe $5 a teh shop. She doesn't really need gloves with this stuff!:D
01-24-09, 12:40 AM
Another pic to show the height of the bars. We put travel agents onour v brakes, big difference. I also knwo a guy that had a sililar setup then converted to drum brakes. Says there is not much of a difference. Just what I heard!:D
01-24-09, 12:42 AM
Never seen one like that. How does she like that Softride frame?
And gotta agree with Mr. Beanz, those are really low stoker handlebars given the seat position.
01-24-09, 12:52 AM
Another thing about those lycra covered comfort saddles. They are ok but a lady's saddle like Gina's is much better. Sort of deceiveing as they don't look it but they are! For 6 or 7 years I tried to convince her to try a lady's design. She insisted on the lycra seat. Finally she tried the Specialized Lady's Gel Dolce when she got the new roadie. With good shorts (Terry, which she already had) she instantly went for a slightly discomfort ride on 40 milers to 80 milers with no discomfort at all! Now she kicks herself in the rear for not taking my advice years ago!:p
We hit 56 mph on our tandem once. Bike was rock solid but I have nightmares of what COULD have happened at that speed. So I see no need to do that hill again.:eek:
Lady's Specialized Dolce Gel saddle works for her! ($50)
01-24-09, 12:57 AM
BTW, I feel bad about this BUT!:p............We ran across another couple on a SOFTRIDE beam. The lady was about 180'ish and was quite the bouncer. I think that would have drove me crazy as the captain. I had asked about the beam cause it just seemed prone to damage the way they rode. They said thay had never had a problem with their Commotion SoftBeam. No more than 3 miles later, it BROKE!:eek:
SO I don't ask anymore but they carried an extra pin just incase. Came in handy along with my very small set of pliers that day!:p
01-24-09, 01:36 AM
My Tandem is converted to full offroad use but a couple of points you raised. The top speed on any Tandem is only limited to how loud the stoker can scream- so find the decibel rating you can stand and do not exceed that.
V Brakes work well so Check you do have V Brake levers before thinking of travel mates. And check that the pads are good enough aswell.
Getting the stoker comfortable is important so find the highest rise bars you can get- and Do not go for normal mountain bike quality on anything. I use full downhill spec but "Freeride" quality should be strong enough.
We learnt many years ago that Tandems are heavy uphills. Take them steady and if you are 9 speed gearing- then go for an 11/32 rear cassette. And remembering the "Freeride" quality- go for an LX Cassette. We bend the lighter XT cassettes on the first hill. On the flat it is easy to raise speed without too much effort and downhill the Stability of the long wheelbase and mass of the thing makes for a very stable ride at speed. Take advantage of it.
Attached is an article I wrote for the UK Tandem club several years ago but you might be able to glean some starter tips from it so get out and just ride the thing and get earplugs for the pilot or a gag for the stoker.
01-24-09, 06:14 AM
Whichever way your relationship is headed, that tandem will get you there faster. A lot of 50+ folks have some pretty long term, well tested, relationships so for them it's all good. Mrs. Grouch has tolerated me on the front of our various tandems for over 30 years. Our first tandem wasn't nearly as nice as yours so I'm thinking your odds look pretty good.
1. Raising the stoker bars would be my first priority. If it was my bike I'd contact one of the tandem specialty dealers like Tandem's Ltd. or Tandem's East. I mention them because I've met the owners. They are exceptionally knowledgeable about how to get the handlebar position that you need.
2. Despite what others will tell you, Rapid Fire mountain bike shifters and road bike front derailleurs used to be a common spec on flat bar tandems. My daughter's Burley is set up that way and my wife's hybrid bike came that way from the factory. Both shift flawlessly.
3. I don't have anything against Travel Agents but I don't think they're what you want. If your bike has been retro-fitted with the V-brakes, make sure that you also have a V-brake lever. Unless your lever is bottoming against the bars or you have to set the pads so close to the rim that you can't release the cable, I think you're probably OK the way you are.
4. If you think that you might want to get an Aria drum brake, now's the time. I understand they have stopped making them but the tandem specialty shops indicated above still have a supply.
5. I have 3 good personal friends who have owned Alsop beam equipped bicycles. Two hated them the third can't understand why so many people ride something else. He loves his! I'm thinking that with limited experience about how riding a tandem should feel your stoker will adjust to using the beam just fine.
01-24-09, 07:07 AM
Sweet-looking ride, Mono. Hope you two will wave when you pass me.
01-24-09, 07:16 AM
Thanks for the advice. Yes, we know the stoker bars have to come up significantly. I married above my head, so to speak. We're just trying to get the stoker's seat position close to where it needs to be before ordering what will probably be a 230mm stem with an upriser stem and clamp.
Also, the cushy stoker saddle is only for the first rides to soften the bumps until she begins carrying more weight on her legs. Ultimately the bike will probably have a Terry Liberator X for her, or I'll possibly swap both saddles for Brooks B68 models.
RetroGrouch...Precision Tandems in KC is helping me get things respaced on the stoker bar. I'm sending Mark some pics and dimensions this week. Very helpful folks. Also, I've committed to buy their last Softbeam saddle bag which will allow me to get rid of the handlebar bag for daily riding.
Mr. Beanz..in checking the SoftRide quality I did not find an account of a beam that broke. The pivot bolt and clamp can are recommended for replacement every 5000 miles and you can still get parts for replacement.
Stapfam, good point about the LX cassette and the durability versus XT.
Thanks for all the helpful comments.
01-24-09, 07:20 AM
Mr Beanz...it looks like your stoker stem is two pieces, being a 22.2mm stem with a threaded quill stem turned upward to facilitate the bars as the second piece. Is that correct or do you have a close up pic?
cranky old dude
01-24-09, 08:22 AM
Good for you! I've enjoyed tandeming with all three of my daughters, and now my wife and I are getting in some miles on a recumbent tandem. Great fun. I've posted a pic of our Burley with a setup for higher stoker bars which allows for both height adjustment and reach adjustment (foreward and back). I believe its a stoker seat bar holder with a quill stem inserted. It's rock solid stable, looks a bit odd but is quite functional. The LBS set this up for me when I purchased the bike back in '94 and I don't recall if it's a standard setup or just a brain fart he had at the time but it accomodated all three children as they grew up and worked well for my wife who prefers an upright seating position.
01-24-09, 09:02 AM
Burley Zydaco X - I have some happy memories of that bike.
I had a friend/customer who did a lot of riding. His wife not so much. They were both unusually short people (last name was "Little" by the way). After a bit of discussion and taking a lot of measurements off of their single bikes they decided to let me set up a Burley Zydaco X for them. The result was almost embarassing. For years afterward every time that I saw them the wife thanked me profusely. She said it was the first bike she had ever ridden that fit right.
01-24-09, 09:44 AM
One of my winter projects will be to get our KHS tandem tuned up and set up so my my wife and I can ride it a good bit this Spring. I have been using Travel Agents to go with my drop bar brake levers and V-brakes, but will be taking them off and using the Tektro road brake levers that work with v-brakes. Travel Agents get the job done, but I never liked the feel or the strain they put on the cables. Seems that swapping levers would have been simpler and cheaper in the case of the OP as v-brake levers for MTB bars are so plentiful and cheap.
Tandems have been great for getting both of my sons involved in long road rides and for allowing my wife and I to ride togetheroccasionally despite our very different speed capabilities. Ours has been sitting idle for a while since my youngest son has become such a rocket on his solo road bike. My wife had lost interest in riding at all but says she wants to get back into it. So the tandem will do its duty once again by helping her her get into shape enough to move up to a faster solo bike, leaving the tandem standing by for its next mission.
01-24-09, 10:44 AM
I still want to add an drag brake if we keep this up. There are quite a few long steep hills around here.
I agree you shouldn't need Travel Agents for levers intended for V-brakes.
You should be able to find an adjustable stoker stem and suitable bars without too much trouble.
Me and my stoker have been riding our "starter" KHS Tandemania Comp for 9 years and really enjoy it. Terrain permitting, it's great fun to blow past people on singles who are fitter than us.
Remember the Rule: The Stoker is Always Right.
01-24-09, 11:21 AM
Good for you. My wife has informed me that the last thing she wants to do is ride with my big butt in her face all day! And she doesn't want to captain. No tandem on the horizon for this couple.
01-24-09, 07:58 PM
The black section of he setup does resemble a quill stem but isn't. It's just an extension.
The two bolts near the seatpost hold it onto the seatpost obviously. But the third bolt near the rear section locks down the black piece after the extension is adjusted. Just slides in and out of the tube and tightened down by a bolt basically!:D
01-24-09, 09:58 PM
Thanks for the picture. I'm thinking that something like that would work for us for now. The 22mm stoker stem and an adjustable threaded quill would give a large range of adjustment.
01-25-09, 09:49 AM
With the LX V brakes levers you can adjust the pull of the levers. I have a pair on my 1995 Burley R&R tandem and have them adjusted in the mid range, it's gives me plenty of cable pull. For better breaking get rid of the LX V brakes. All that linkage flexes and robs power. Avid Single Digit 7's are the best V brake out there and they can be found for less than $25 these days. This pic was below taken in 2001 on the Hiawatha Trail in Idaho. Due to my wifes health we haven't ridden it in many years but this year all is going well and we will give it a try again.
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