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Old 05-10-13, 02:42 PM   #1
TandemGeek
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Topolino's go from bad to worse....

For the folks who've read my blog, this is part old new and some new news....

Old news:

On Wednesday night we finally popped a spoke end on our Topolino's. We were just cruising along at about 35 mph on a nice 4% long downhill section of road and then I heard a "doink". It took me a second to realize one of the threaded ends of the composite spokes had finally given in to fatigue and snapped where it enters the nipple inside the rim.

Because the spokes are semi-rigid the loose spoke didn't flop around much and the out-of-true condition wasn't even bad enough to cause brake rub. So, we nursed our tandem home over the last 9 miles and then swapped out the Topolino's for our conventional White Ind / Velocity Deep-V wheelset.

Fixing a broken spoke on a Topolino is a bit unusual in that 1/2 of the wheel's spoke network has to be replaced vs. just a single spoke. They lace in the same as conventional spokes, but it's essentially a total wheel reconstruction project. Rather than taking a whack at it I decided I'd just get a cost quote from Topolino to fix it. I put in a call on Thursday and Rafe and I have been playing phone tag: we'll likely talk on Monday.



New news:


In the mean time, I decided to give the rear wheel a closer inspection in daylight to see if there were any potential issues looming with it that might need to be factored into the "do I repair them or chuck 'em" decision. Son-of-a-gun, hairline cracks at about 1/2 of the rear spoke holes in the rim, including two where the cracks have merged. ugg.

When we originally bought the wheels a replacement rim was $90 and each spoke hemisphere was $65. Factor in shipping at $36 each way and then add labor; uh.... yeah. It will be interesting to see what total est. to repair might be. Damn, and they look so good!

I wonder what color of PBO spokes would look best on our Calfee? Hmmm.
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Old 05-10-13, 04:17 PM   #2
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Damn, Mark. As I recall you spent a small fortune just a couple years ago buying and testing both Rolfs and Topolinos. IIRC, you weren't thrilled with the Rolfs and sold them, and now the Topos have gone south on you. And you guys are FAR from being a heavy team.

It's always nice when beta testing comes out of someone else's pocket, but sorry it happened to be yours! Ouch!
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Old 05-10-13, 05:06 PM   #3
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How many miles on those Topolinos?
Have 15,000+miles on Topos on my single bike.
These arte some of the first sets built way-back-when with the plastic re-inforcement (like old tied/soldered setup).
Have never trued them and have had to adjust front hub twice.
Pedal on!
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Old 05-10-13, 06:04 PM   #4
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Wheel durability is subject to differences in use. A fairly light skilled single rider puts a lot less stress on wheels than a tandem. We have been known to rock the bike a little when standing and even at only 300 lbs proabably put a lot more than twice the stress on our wheels as zonatandem. Throw in some blasting over bumbs, rairoad crossings and other obstructions to maintain mometum and i just don't think it is a valid comparison.
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Old 05-10-13, 06:55 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by zonatandem View Post
How many miles on those Topolinos?
About 1,500 - 2,000 for the front & 2,000 - 2,500 tops for the rear. As noted, we've been using up to 5 different wheelsets on our Calfee since taking delivery in early 2008.

These are common failures on Topolino's as best as we can surmise from friends who were also early adopters but who quickly put big miles into their Topolino's. One of our dear friends described their experience this way:

Quote:
We've never hit anything on the road with our Topo's. Five breaks total.
1. broke spoke on 22% climb, it pulled out where it passes thru the center hub.
2. broke front spoke at threads diving into a 90 degree left turn doing about 15 mph at Mel's flat smooth roads.
3. cracked rear hub on 38% climb.
4. broke rear spoke at threads just flying down a flat road (this also happened to our friends another time when they were behind us)
5. found numerous cracks on rim between spokes (this also happened to another friends).
All this being said.....I'm not a happy about our Topos', but Lar still loves them.....
So, hardly an anomaly for folks who put hard miles into their wheels. We would have had all of these issues a lot sooner had we not been playing around with two different sets of Rolfs and two difference sets of White Ind/Velocity Fusion & White Ind/Velocity Deep-Vs.

I still like Rafe, his passion for cycling, the composite wheel concept and love the ride qualities, but no way did we ever get value for money out of these wheels... and rebuilding them looks like a bad investment , i.e, throwing good money after bad is never a good idea.

Nice people can still be nice people, but if their products suck... they suck. $1,200 wheels shouldn't fall apart in just 2,000 - 3,000 miles of far less than demanding use.
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Old 05-10-13, 08:49 PM   #6
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The wheel design was unproven on tandems. Early adopters get to use the sexy new products in exchange for the risk of failure. The conventional design is boring but the cutting edge stuff sometimes succeeds and sometimes not.

I am interested to see how the spinergy wheels hold up in the long term.
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Old 05-11-13, 01:30 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
The wheel design was unproven on tandems. Early adopters get to use the sexy new products in exchange for the risk of failure. The conventional design is boring but the cutting edge stuff sometimes succeeds and sometimes not. I am interested to see how the spinergy wheels hold up in the long term.
True, and that was part of the rationale behind our boutique wheel comparisons early on with the Calfee. Long-time readers or folks who've suffered through my Calfee Journal may recall that we procured several different wheelsets for the Calfee so that we could see what, if any, real difference we might experience in using a set of 1,850g Rolfs vs. a set of 1,850g conventional wheels (White Ind / Velocity Fusion).

Our first set of Rolfs were the '08 models with the more shallow 31mm rim and wider brake track that had lateral stiffness issues. They were quickly sold and replaced with a set of '07 Rolfs with the 34mm deep rim that we were still using up and until this past fall when I sold them. They were "better" than the '08 Rolfs, but there wasn't any real performance gains to be realized with the Rolfs vs. the 36h conventional wheels except for sustained high speeds (25+ mph) which weren't a big part of our typical riding regime and even then it wasn't a huge difference: real time trial wheels would have been the better choice.

The Topolino's became a target of opportunity as they didn't really catch my attention until I met Rafe Schlanger at the Tandems East open house in March '08 and got to hear his pitch about the wheels + Craig Calfee's personal take. I was intrigued and figured we'd give them a shot. Performance wise, they weren't any "faster" than conventional wheels but the ride qualities were sublime. They spun up quickly, were laterally stiff on par with our conventional wheels, added some additional vibration dampening vs. the Rolfs -- not much different in that respect from conventional wheels -- but did all of that while being almost a pound lighter than the Rolfs and more than a pound lighter than our long-term conventional wheelset (White Ind / Deep-V).

We learned early on that some of the other early adopters in New Jersey who put lots of hard miles on the wheels were breaking front & rear spokes at the terminators, cracking rear hubs, and eventually discovered cracks in their rims. However, to a person most of them continued to have the wheels repaired because they really liked the way they performed, often times to the chagrin of their stokers who saw the repeated failures and repairs as a never-ending headache. Our wheels only lasted as long as they did -- time wise -- because we were using so many different wheelsets on our Calfee that we never racked up big miles all that quickly. Well that and as noted our roads here in Georgia are very kind to cyclists in that they tend to be very smooth. It was only after making a point of using them for 50% of our riding over the past year that we finally put enough mileage into the wheels to discover those fatigue life issues that our other friends had already found.

Again, hard to know at this point if we'll have them repaired or turn them into wall art. I'm guessing we have close to 3,000 miles on the $1,200 wheelset (MSRP) at this point vs. several lightweight conventional wheelsets at $600 that have 6,000, 10,000, 12,000 and 25,000 miles. Even our Rolfs which racked up some 3,000 miles never exhibited any durability issues.

As to whether or not we'll play with the Spinergy's, hard to know at this point. 1/2 of the intrigue of the Topolino's was the technology and the other half was pure vanity associated with their insanely light weight and the way they looked on our Calfee with the black carbon spokes encased in the funky Gulden-brown mustard colored Kevlar. We've ridden on a set of Spinergy's and they have nearly the same performance traits as the Topolino's even though they're about 100 grams heavier. So, from a ride quality perspective they're attractive. But, in terms of any real value-added over our tried and true conventional wheelset the $300 cost premium is hard to justify even if they end up having the same service life which I suspect they may have just looking at the spoke technology: I just don't see the PBO spokes causing the fatigue issues that have plagued the Topolino wheels.

Of course, given that we just added a new set of all-black 40/48h Dyads to our stable for the triplet, I may throw those on the Calfee with some 28mm - 30mm tires and our Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork (no way a 28mm will fit in the Alpha Q X2 fork) to see how those compare to our Deep-V w/23mm and 25mm tire riding experiences.

I will update once we get a cost estimate for extending the life of our Topolino's. Yeah, I'll probably drop the coin to have both the front & rear wheels rebuilt, but you can bet your boots that they'll only get pulled out for special "peacock" events, i.e., tandem rallies & other widely attended rides like the Tour de Cure. I've got a weakness when it comes to putting good-looking wheels on "bikes".

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Old 05-11-13, 10:51 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
The wheel design was unproven on tandems. Early adopters get to use the sexy new products in exchange for the risk of failure. The conventional design is boring but the cutting edge stuff sometimes succeeds and sometimes not.

I am interested to see how the spinergy wheels hold up in the long term.
What is your definition of long term? It has been at least 1 1/2 years since the Spinergy Tx2 came out, and it seems without any published defects. Quite an excellent record so far. Compare that to TandemGeeks bad reports of the Topos right from the start. Perspective.

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Of course, given that we just added a new set of all-black 40/48h Dyads to our stable for the triplet, I may throw those on the Calfee with some 28mm - 30mm tires and our Reynolds Ouzo Pro fork (no way a 28mm will fit in the Alpha Q X2 fork) to see how those compare to our Deep-V w/23mm and 25mm tire riding experiences.
Considering the 24mm width of the Dyad, mounting a 25mm tire should expand its tread area by a couple mm and become more like a 27mm. So, perhaps forego the 28mm tire on the Calfee in order to get more in the ballpark of your usual two-seater needs and more in line with your Deep-V tire choices... if that is your intent, to have somewhat even comparison. I also expect that if your Dyad wheels have heavy gauge spokes (appropriate for your >2 seater(s)), those will feel quite dead on the Calfee.

I would be very interested to hear what you think of a 25mm Michelin Pro Race or Schwalbe ZX on a wide rim. I am liking their very smooth tread-sidewall transitions over Conti's "tread cap" approach.

Last edited by twocicle; 05-11-13 at 11:00 AM.
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Old 05-11-13, 11:39 AM   #9
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Oh, dear! Just took a look at our Topos, which have about 2500 miles on them. I'm not sure, even with a magnifying glass, if I have very small hairline cracks in the front rim. It's very difficult to tell, because the edge of the decal also looks like a crack, but isn't. Rear wheel looks fine. Both hubs look good. Mark, you've made me nervous, so I think I'll stick with Spinergys for GTR.
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Old 05-11-13, 12:17 PM   #10
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Oh, dear! Just took a look at our Topos, which have about 2500 miles on them. I'm not sure, even with a magnifying glass, if I have very small hairline cracks in the front rim. It's very difficult to tell, because the edge of the decal also looks like a crack, but isn't. Rear wheel looks fine. Both hubs look good. Mark, you've made me nervous, so I think I'll stick with Spinergys for GTR.
I just took a careful look at our rear Topolino, it has approximately 5,000 miles on it. It did go back to Topolino about 1,000 miles ago to have the RH side spokes replaced. At that time it was checked out and rebuilt. There are no cracks and it is straight and true. I do have the later model using the Tru black spokes. That might make a difference.

I think it is a good idea to have at least one set of spare wheels on hand for a tandem. We currently have 4 front wheels and 3 rear wheels and will probably keep all of them. If you fail a tandem wheel you are for the most part screwed until you get it rebuilt or replaced.

I forget exactly what it cost to have the wheel rebuilt but if I remember correctly itmwasmclose to $250. If I was at home I would know but we are in Tulsa.

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Old 05-11-13, 12:47 PM   #11
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Oh, dear! Just took a look at our Topos, which have about 2500 miles on them. I'm not sure, even with a magnifying glass, if I have very small hairline cracks in the front rim. It's very difficult to tell, because the edge of the decal also looks like a crack, but isn't. Rear wheel looks fine. Both hubs look good. Mark, you've made me nervous, so I think I'll stick with Spinergys for GTR.
If you want, I can bring the Eddy Current machine and we can do a little bit of Non-Destructive testing. Just let me know.

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Old 05-11-13, 01:42 PM   #12
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I'm not sure, even with a magnifying glass, if I have very small hairline cracks in the front rim.
If you had cracks you'd see them; they're fairly distinctive and will be uniformly present on more than 1/2 of the spoke holes, especially where their rear spokes are paired. I'd be surprised if there any cracks in the front rim, as that's not the rim that experiences the very high loads that can lead to cracks at spoke hole openings in the rim.



Again, to our friends who don't live and do rides where you regularly encounter 12% - 20% grades in a 34/34t granny gear I'm thinking you won't find any cracks. These wheels have been to three Tennessee Tandem Rally's and done several trips to 3 Gap where the aforementioned double-digit grades put the hurt on us and our equipment.
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Old 05-11-13, 02:35 PM   #13
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What is your definition of long term? It has been at least 1 1/2 years since the Spinergy Tx2 came out, and it seems without any published defects. Quite an excellent record so far. Compare that to TandemGeeks bad reports of the Topos right from the start. Perspective.
Good question. I guess we do have a different perspective but that's ok. For me long term is much longer than a year and a half. Maybe something like the mileage Tandemgeek mentioned for his conventional wheel sets he used for comparison in his post above. In the really long term if the spoke technology Spinergy uses is superior to steel spokes then it should replace steel spokes just as aluminum rims and cranks replaced steel rims and cranks. If that starts to happen then we will be able to have PBO spokes in more sizes to custom build with more hubs and rims than the very limited selection not available.

As far as published defects goes I am not sure what you mean by published. I recall (but unfortunately don't have a link) reading in this Forum about the outstanding service provided by House of Tandems replacing some wheels that had problems. Any product will have some issues and I think that is great that the buyers received good support when needed.

Ahhh found a link, not sure if you would consider this a defect:

http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-818352.html



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Old 05-11-13, 04:12 PM   #14
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Considering the 24mm width of the Dyad, mounting a 25mm tire should... I also expect that if your Dyad wheels have heavy gauge spokes (appropriate for your >2 seater(s)), those will feel quite dead on the Calfee.

The 25mm Vredestein's will definitely part of the test case on the Dyads.

The 40h F /48h R Dyads were built using DT Champion db 2.0 / 1.8 (14/15) laced 4x and our current Calfee wheelset with the Deep-Vs were built using Sapim Strong db 2.3 / 2.0 (13/14) spokes laced 3x. The Calfee's Deep-V wheelset is actually quite similar to the Topolino's when it comes to comfort and road feel, just laterally stiffer which we can easily detect when climbing or sprinting out of the saddle given that I'm something of a bike-thrower.

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I would be very interested to hear what you think of a 25mm Michelin Pro Race or Schwalbe ZX on a wide rim. I am liking their very smooth tread-sidewall transitions over Conti's "tread cap" approach.
I'm actually not a big fan of the Continental tires, but that's what came on our Triplet and I just haven't taken the time to investigate what else is out there in the 28mm - 32mm tire market. It's been a long time since I ran Michelin Pro Race... in fact I think it may have been when they were just called Michelin Pros and still had their paper thin skinwalls and were next to impossible to mount when new. Still haven't tried the Schwalbe tires, but would like to at some point. They along with the Grand Bois 30's in blackwall are on the short list for the triplet.
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Old 05-12-13, 06:26 AM   #15
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Mark - if a Bontrager tandem front wheel can fail, as ours and a friend's did(hub flanges broke) then why not Topos?
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Old 05-12-13, 06:30 AM   #16
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PK- that would be useful and interesting if it's not too much hassle for you.
Thanks.
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Old 05-12-13, 09:03 AM   #17
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Mark - if a Bontrager tandem front wheel can fail, as ours and a friend's did(hub flanges broke) then why not Topos?
It's just not something I've heard was/is a problem with the Topolino's, hence why I'd be surprised... which is not to say it would be out of the question. If the front wheel's spokes were over-tensioned then yes... just like any other wheel the spokes holes, flange or whatever the weakest link is will eventually give way. I've watched amateur wheel builders who really didn't appreciate why there are spoke tension specs for rims over tighten spokes to the point where the rim was ruined in the truing stand. Tighter isn't better unless the rim can handle the spoke tension, eh?

The Bontrager wheels were notorious for both hub & rim cracking. The hubs simply weren't strong enough for the radial lacing and would either fail at the flange or split the hub body. I think they got their hands around that fairly early, but can't be sure. As to the rims, it was apparently a rim manufacturing process issue, which is also why it was so widespread. The rims were simply over-hardened and that led to the cracking. Thousands of Bontrager wheels were replaced under warranty, often more times than once for the rim failures since the same overhardened rims were used in the first warranty rebuild.

The 2nd generation Rolf front wheels (I think it was the 2nd Gen) were equally notorious for flange failures which was, again, something that had a common root cause: they had extra holes drilled in the front hubs to make them lighter and that removal of material and the way they did it caused stress cracks that eventually caused a chunk of flange with spoke still attached to be torn away from the hub body. One the problem was identified they stopped having the extra holes put in the hubs and no more flange failures. There was also a run of Rolf wheels where the spokes were mis-laced by one of their wheelbuilders and that caused a bunch of spoke failures early on. Once they figured out what was happening it was an easy fix and the warranty repairs -- replacing the broken spokes and lacing them correctly -- seemed to be pretty effective.

So, my armchair assessment is really just based on past performance and issues with given products. Again, anything can happen for a variety of reasons and if there are cracks in your Topolino's front rim, then there are. If so, I'd suspect that the spoke network was over-tensioned.

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Old 05-12-13, 01:10 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by waynesulak View Post
Good question. I guess we do have a different perspective but that's ok. For me long term is much longer than a year and a half. Maybe something like the mileage Tandemgeek mentioned for his conventional wheel sets he used for comparison in his post above. In the really long term if the spoke technology Spinergy uses is superior to steel spokes then it should replace steel spokes just as aluminum rims and cranks replaced steel rims and cranks. If that starts to happen then we will be able to have PBO spokes in more sizes to custom build with more hubs and rims than the very limited selection not available.

As far as published defects goes I am not sure what you mean by published. I recall (but unfortunately don't have a link) reading in this Forum about the outstanding service provided by House of Tandems replacing some wheels that had problems. Any product will have some issues and I think that is great that the buyers received good support when needed.

Ahhh found a link, not sure if you would consider this a defect:

http://www.bikeforums.net/archive/index.php/t-818352.html

No, bikefor2's tire blowout and initial damage statement would not be classified as a wheel defect. Bikefor2 clearly goes on to state that after inspection "we think it is just out of true (slight wobble) and not "bent".". You would really be stretching things to call that a Spinergy demerit.

Otherwise I am not aware of any others. By "published", obviously that means any mention anywhere... forums, Hobbes, blogs, etc.

Lastly, I would bet a tub of Utter Cream there are teams exceeding the 2500 mile mark by now. Any takers out there?
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Old 05-12-13, 02:57 PM   #19
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Lastly, I would bet a tub of Utter Cream there are teams exceeding the 2500 mile mark by now. Any takers out there?
.. sigh ... Sixty one years old and over 40 years of cycling and yet still, every time I turn around, someone is talking about some product or use for a product I've never encountered!

Please enlighten me, kind sir, as to what usage someone in the cycling community might have for a bovine teat cream.
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Old 05-12-13, 03:49 PM   #20
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No, bikefor2's tire blowout and initial damage statement would not be classified as a wheel defect. Bikefor2 clearly goes on to state that after inspection "we think it is just out of true (slight wobble) and not "bent".". You would really be stretching things to call that a Spinergy demerit.

Otherwise I am not aware of any others. By "published", obviously that means any mention anywhere... forums, Hobbes, blogs, etc.

Lastly, I would bet a tub of Utter Cream there are teams exceeding the 2500 mile mark by now. Any takers out there?
Probably should take the Spinergy discussion back to the thread below. More than 2500 in miles, some small issues and HOT replacement offered discussed.

http://www.bikeforums.net/showthread...n-Spinergy-TX2
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Old 05-12-13, 03:59 PM   #21
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.. sigh ... Sixty one years old and over 40 years of cycling and yet still, every time I turn around, someone is talking about some product or use for a product I've never encountered!

Please enlighten me, kind sir, as to what usage someone in the cycling community might have for a bovine teat cream.
Maybe he's talking about Udderly Smooth http://www.udderlysmooth.com/ or some similar product. My wife and I use this as chamois cream and it works great, it's water soluable so it washes out and won't mess up your shorts like bag balm can. It also cost $6.50 for a tub that lasts a long time.
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Old 05-12-13, 04:54 PM   #22
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While usage/mileage (15,000+ miles) on my Topolino wheelset is on my single bike, am still very much impressed with the quality/longevity.
Have test ridden many products in our 38+ years as tandem riders, including several prototypes that never saw daylight or a few that broke.
Actual testing on the roads is the true measure of product quality/longevity.
Even now, in our more 'senior years' (80/78), we are still occasional 'test dummies.'
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Old 05-13-13, 08:44 AM   #23
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.. sigh ... Sixty one years old and over 40 years of cycling and yet still, every time I turn around, someone is talking about some product or use for a product I've never encountered!

Please enlighten me, kind sir, as to what usage someone in the cycling community might have for a bovine teat cream.
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Originally Posted by ct-vt-trekker View Post
Maybe he's talking about Udderly Smooth http://www.udderlysmooth.com/ or some similar product. My wife and I use this as chamois cream and it works great, it's water soluable so it washes out and won't mess up your shorts like bag balm can. It also cost $6.50 for a tub that lasts a long time.
Correct. It was a pun on creams from the UDDERLY SMOOTH brand. I called it UTTER as a play on forum discussions You can find the Body Cream at Walmart for ~$3.60 a tub.

After incurring severe skin burn reaction (akin to 2nd degree burns in the nether regions no less) to Chamois Buttr products last year and a reoccurance early this year, I am currently using the Body Cream for my chamois needs, but have the Chamois Cream (thicker and more expensive) on order. Unforunately these Udder products contain methylparaben and propylparaben (lookup "paraben") so this product is not perfect either.

Last edited by twocicle; 05-13-13 at 08:47 AM.
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Old 05-13-13, 10:44 AM   #24
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They along with the Grand Bois 30's in blackwall are on the short list for the triplet.
We run Gran Bois 28 or 29 tires on our tandem. They have absolutely amazing road feel, and help provide a very comfortable ride. We have run a lot of different tires over the years on our tandems, and never found anything that rides like Gran Bois. The only caveat is that they don't do so well with fully loaded touring, or with scuffs from stones etc., as the sidewalls are pretty soft. I'm not sure how well they would do on a triple.

Our single bikes have had 26 mm Gran Bois tires since new, and they have a great ride. These bikes were built with fit and comfort at the top of the list, and I am pretty sure the tires are a bike part of their feel.
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Old 05-13-13, 12:06 PM   #25
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Correct. It was a pun on creams from the UDDERLY SMOOTH brand. I called it UTTER as a play on forum discussions You can find the Body Cream at Walmart for ~$3.60 a tub.

After incurring severe skin burn reaction (akin to 2nd degree burns in the nether regions no less) to Chamois Buttr products last year and a reoccurance early this year, I am currently using the Body Cream for my chamois needs, but have the Chamois Cream (thicker and more expensive) on order. Unforunately these Udder products contain methylparaben and propylparaben (lookup "paraben") so this product is not perfect either.
I am using coconut oil as a chamois cream. It is am amazing product with many uses.
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