I received my 1993 Burley Duet on Friday afternoon via FedEx. The box was undamaged by the shipping and the bike shop that had packed it up in Asheville did an excellent job.
Upon unpacking the bike, I can say that this particular bike is analogous to finding a classic muscle car in a barn in like new condition. The previous (original) owner took excellent care of this bicycle. There are no chips whatsoever in the paint, and only a few scratches. All the interfaces are shiny and rust free. Everything that should be oiled, is oiled. The bar tape was a bright white (well, until I got my grimy hands on it). The original wheels appeared to be fine, no rust on the spokes or anything like that. It had the original tires on it, as far as I could tell, and they look to have some wear left in them, although I'm going to replace them anyway.
I found some undesirable configuration items upon assembly:
-The drum brake makes putting on the rear wheel a PITA. Is there a technique for doing this better? I had to do it 3 times before I got it right. I found that I needed to align the drag brake first, then get the axles in the drop, then tighten down the axle nuts, then tighten the drag brake nut, then attach the drag brake to the cable.
-Speaking of, I don't really care for the non-QR rear. That will be rectified with the new wheelset I am working on though.
-Both the front and rear rim brakes are connected to the right hand brake lever. This is unacceptable to me. I managed to get the brakes adjusted for acceptable braking action with the right lever but it's not going to stay this way. The left lever is connected to the drag brake. I will connect the rim brakes normally and get a thumbie or something for the drag brake.
-Neither of the seat posts nor the stem are very long by modern standards. I will need to get longer replacements, in particular, I will get a Nitto Technomic for the front. None of them are inserted to the minimum insertion point, but far enough that I am comfortable with them. I suppose the larger issue is that the bike is not quite big enough for the captain but I think it's workable in the interim until we get our (someday) full custom.
-The handlebars are really bad. I am used to riding drop bars with lengthy ramps like the Nitto Noodlebar and these ones are set up to ride like a track bike. They are going away and I mean fast. I want to get something like a 48MM Noodlebar or maybe one of the ones that Velo Orange carries.
So the initial shakedown ride was just around the block for a smoke test pretty much, with me riding it alone. I wanted to get a feel for the handling, braking and shifting and it seemed to go well enough. I live on a hill and I found out quickly that I don't really care much for the 54/44/28 configuration, especially the middle ring being a 44, but for now it's good enough - drivetrain upgrades are coming. The other thing was that the dummy brakes on the stoker handlebar was rubbing my backside. I bent them outwards.
Thusly we packed the bike up in my Kia Rondo with many struggles, back wheel in first and sitting on top of the front passenger seat with both seatposts and the front wheel removed. A smaller tandem might have fit in head first with the front forks between the driver and front passenger seat but this XL model is just too big for that, not to say we didn't try!
We headed town to Austin's Veloway about 20 miles away from the house. I just was not comfortable taking it out for our initial spin on public roads. From reading the webpage on the "The Proper Method" I was aware that my single bike habits were not going to translate to riding a tandem. And oh how right the author of that article was.
Getting the stoker mounted was not as much of a problem as I would have expected. I thought it would have been very difficult to keep the bike steady with both of her feet in the toe clips but that part was actually quite easy. Getting my foot in was another story though as she started cursing when I ever so slightly leaned over to get my right foot attached. I really didn't think I leaned that much, and maybe she was just scared. I don't know. Maybe I should tell her to lean slightly in the opposite direction? Or work on a different technique? I tried to use the method described in "The Proper Method and it seemed to work for the most part.-
When I took off it was not so confidence inspiring. She was cursing some more and fretting about the noises (my toe clips were scraping the ground). It felt like the bike was really going different directions in the front and the back. I think because she was freaking out for lack of balance, or maybe the frame is a bit whippy being 4130 crome-moly and so forth. But finally I got situated and we pedaled away, tenuously at first.
Her cadence is definitely not as high as mine and that caused some immediate issues, she was trying to let off at what I would consider a normal cadence and I was wanting to pedal. I like to use a 90-105 cadence and clearly she was not used to that. I could feel her letting off of her effort at the higher cadence and that caused the tension to come out of the timing chain (I think) which was not desirable at all, felt really strange.
I had zero confidence in the turns, granted the veloway has some sharp corners on it, but I wasn't comfortable with the handlebars, the handling of the bike, or my own technique. I am having a hard time imaging cornering on a charity ride or a club ride like I might normally do on a single. I can't imagine taking a sharp turn at the moment.
I knew the Burley had bar end shifters going in, but I think they are really not desirable on a tandem, at least, for me anyway. I am fine with the bar ends on my Rivendell but I don't really care for removing my hands from the brake hoods while riding the tandem. Maybe that is partially due to the undesirable handlebars, but I am planning on a switch to STI anyway.
The issue with the middle ring on the crankset was evident again. I would like a middle gear with 38 or 40 teeth I think rather than this 44 teeth setup. With the 14-28 7 speed cluster on the back the issues were magnified. I had neither a low enough gear to go fast in the middle ring nor a high enough gear to climb steep inclines.
Not being able to see the gears, on top of the aforementioned issues, was really hard for me. It seems to me that I usually always know instinctually where I am on my single bike but maybe because of all the other things going on I was just completely lost as to what gear I was in. Add to that the fact that I was overshifting the front derailer at times and I was just real confused. I don't know whether to just give it some time, or seek out something like a Shimano Flight Deck setup so I can see what gears I am currently in.
But it wasn't all bad. We got it going better after a while, and we even got up a better technique for getting up the one really steep pitch at the Veloway. I found that I was actually more comfortable with the bike's handling at higher speeds. I started to get it mapped out in my head how I was going to take all the corners. We stopped a few times, each time it seemed to get better stopping and starting.
By the end, my wife was saying that she really liked it. Me too . We did 12.3 miles for the shakedown ride.
I do have a laundry list of changes I want to make to the bike though, some of which I have already purchased.
-New wheelset (Shimano HF08 hubs and Rhyno Lite rims procured so far, looking for sales on triple butted spokes)
-9 speed drivetrain upgrade (already procured HG61 12-36 9 speed cassette, SGS derailer, chain and cassette hub)
-New chainrings - thinking 52-38-26, ramped and pinned for 9 speed STI
-STI shifters (already procured)
-Hook up rim brakes normally
-Kool Stop pads for rim brakes
-Thumbie for drag brake
-Nitto Technomic stem
-Nitto Noodlebar 48cm front
-Some wider handlebars for the stoker so they're not interfering with my ahem backside.
- new pedals, my feet are too big for the original MKS pedals the bike shipped with.
Well guess that's it for now. I need more pointers though! This is like learning to ride a bike all over again, and I am a very experienced singe bike rider!