Sunday, June 29, 2008

Fulshear Saturday

Only three of us rode in Fulshear yesterday: Danny, Jim and me. I loaded the truck Friday night so I could sleep until 5:30 Saturday morning. I picked up Danny and Jim as planned and we were unloaded and set up in Fulshear by 7am. Danny and I rode the Flevo. He brought a pedal wrench and installed his own stoker pedals so that he could clip in. Brave soul.

We had a surprise visit from John Bosco in the parking lot. Jim had a flat before we got started. I happened to have a tube that fit and Danny did the repairs. We shoved off. By the time we got to the Shell station in Fulshear John had a flat too. Damn. Unbeknownst to us he did not have a tube that fit and ended up going home without riding. See you next time John.

This is probably the best run I've had on the Flevo. The bike ran smoothly. Danny and I pushed up into the high 20's several times and cruised comfortably at 20 for extended periods.

One thing I've figured out about Danny on this ride: the title of stoker doesn't really apply to him. I would say he's actually more of a co-captian from the back seat. All of Danny's advice, however, was top notch and I learned from him on this ride.

Total miles Saturday: 41.6
Total Miles This Year: 854.3
2008 Goal: 2500 (It's still doable if I start bike commuting.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


It's almost Hotter N' Hell time again. This year's ride is set for Saturday, August 23, 2008 in Wichita Falls, Texas. There were 11,205 registered riders last year and I'm sure there'll be a crowd this year too. This ride just keeps getting better. Last year saw a new phased start that got all the riders on the course in 20 minutes. It took and hour the year before. 35 sag wagons last year. 15 sags the year before.

See you there!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

"Stoker Wanted"

"If you are an experienced tandem stoker, or always wanted to give it a try, please contact me"

"Anybody out there want to ride on the back seat of one of my tandems ? I have got two lovely tandems in good working order. All they are doing now though is sitting in my garage gathering dust beacuse I have no stoker to ride them with. Please contact me if you would like to go for a ride or two with me by tandem.Sighted or unsighted stokers welcome, Female or Male, any height catered for. "

"I am always looking for a stoker so my tandem sits against the wall way too much. If you would like to go for a ride let me know. I am thinking about selling my Cannondale s/m size simply due to lack of use."

"Captain looking for a stoker to share a morning or afternoon outing. It's fun...just be sure to follow safe cycling rules, and always wear a helmet!"

It is an irony for the unmarried tandemist that the one thing about tandeming that makes it so rewarding is also the thing that can make it impossible to ride a tandem: it takes two people. Most tandem teams are husband and wife. Others are families on triples or pairs of recumbents. The unmarried tandemist must find a stoker without the benefit these ties.

I am not married. I rode over 2000 miles on tandems last year. For most of that time my stoker was my 22 year old daughter. She was never much into riding upright bikes, but once I got a tandem recumbent she was hooked. We rode most weekends out in the country with my friends and did most of the organized rides in the Houston area over the years. I treasured the hours spent in the open air with my daughter. That's over now, for the most part. She has a job that requires her to work Saturday's. Oh, she may come back for a Saturday or two or the Bike Around the Bay, but I fear the days of riding with her 2-3 times a week are gone for good.

So where does that leave me? I have a girlfriend, but she rides with me intermittantly at best. Several of my friends have volunteered to stoke for me and we've had a blast, but none of these volunteers are going to morph into a regular stoker for me. They have bikes of their own. There is a tandem club in town, but their members are complete teams, not stokers looking for captains.

The best of tandeming comes when a captain and a stoker become a coordinated team through shared experience. There is an intuitive form of tandeming that can only be achieved by learning the movements, cadence and thinking of your tandem partner as the miles slide by. This magic is unavailable to the tyro tandem team or the seasoned captain or stoker riding with a new team mate.

Can a high milage tandem team exist without the marital of family relationship? Can two people with lives of their own come together on a regular basis to enjoy the pleasures of tandeming? Frankly, I doubt it, but I'm interested to hear opposing views or experiences.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Carbon Recumbent Tandem

Rick Steel at Gold Country Cyclery in California has announced he will be building and marketing a carbon fiber tandem recumbent:

"It’s been a dream of mine to create a lightweight carbon fiber recumbent tandem. My luck was improved when a very good customer wanted the same, and provided much needed funds to get the prototype started. With the hard work from a respected CF tandem frame builder in Arizona, we finally have a rideable prototype that feels very dialed-in from the get go. Low speed stability was one of my main concerns, but test rides to include low speed climbs eliminated my worries.

Another goal of the tandem was to acheive a mid 30 lb weight. This tandem which includes 2 Ti S&S couplers and minus pedals weighs 35 lbs. All production tandems will be custom sized, and offered with or without couplers. First big test for the new tandem will be this years RAGBRAI.

We are applying for a trademark name for our new product line which will include CF single recumbents as well."

Rick tells me that the production model will be a pound or more lighter than this prototype. The frameset will include the Wound-Up all CF tandem fork. Apparently the S&S Couplers will be standard on these bikes, not an option.

I thought the Seavo was my ultimate bent tandem purchase, but Rick's beautiful creation, when it becomes available, will likely make me cash poor again. It's time to start saving!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Fulshear Saturday

My regular stoker, Liz, is moving so she's been unavailable for rides for the last couple of weeks. Fortunately, my friends have stepped up and offered to stoke for me. Two weeks ago it was Debbie, last week Coleman and this past Saturday Ben's grandson D. Also joining us for a 7am meet in Fulshear were Danny, George, Ken, David, Jim, Wayne, Debbie and Pat and Ben. Debbie took all the pictures since I forgot my camera. 37 miles in all.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Wooden Flevo

I ran across this interesting variation of the Flevo tandem on the net. The all wooden construction has to save alot of weight. It lacks some of the advantages of the standard Flevo however. No independant cadence, no suspension strut, no mid-body joint for easy break-down and small wheels.

Monday, June 9, 2008

The World in a Better Light

"Every couple on a tandem soon makes the same discovery - people actually smile when they see you. Whether riding across town or around the globe, the universal acceptance of couples on tandems means everyone, including strangers, becomes uncommonly friendly. And while it's been said that getting there is half the fun, on a tandem, getting there is the fun. Besides the benefits of cycling on singles (the intimate scale of travel, an unhurried pace, the immediacy of the elements and a landscape absorbed by all five senses), tandeming also offers the subtle rewards of teamwork - easy conversation, shared discovery and mutual accomplishment."

Bill McCready, President, Santana Cycles, Inc.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Tour De Braz

Since I didn't have my regular stoker this weekend, I was relieved when Debbie agreed to stoke Saturday and Coleman on Sunday for the Tour De Braz. I thought Coleman wanted to stoke on the Seavo, but when he showed up at 5:30am as planned and saw the Seavo on the rack I realized that maybe we had had a communication failure. Coleman admitted he wanted to stoke the Flevo Back to Back, which is the bike I prefered to ride anyway. That made my day. We unracked the Seavo and quickly loaded the Flevo which was already disassembled in the garage from yesterday's ride. We left only a few minutes behind schedule to pick up Danny. We arrived in Alvin about 6:30 with plenty of time to set the bike up and register.

This is the first organized ride I've done on the Flevo. This bike always draws a crowd. Everyone wants a picture of it. Most people today asked if the bike is homemade. I told one young lady that Coleman and I were Siamese twins joined at the head at birth and that this was the only bike we wanted to ride now, even though we had been surgically separated. "For real??", she asked. During the ride we heard only one or two, "He's not pedaling back there," but many "You're going the wrong way" calls as we passed bikes along the way.

Although he'd never ridden it before, Coleman took to the Flevo immediately. He seemed at ease right from the start. This bike can be a challenge to get rolling, but our first push off from the start line was smooth and steady.

The weather today was the same as yesterday: windy. The Flevo, however, was untroubled. This bike eats headwinds. I passed more DF's on this ride than I have ever passed in my life and it was a great feeling. I'm not used to reaching rest stops ten minutes ahead of my friends, but I think I can live with it. Coleman is a strong rider so I'm sure that that had alot to do with it, but there has to be a huge advantage in having the power of two riders and the wind resistance of just one.

I used to do the Tour De Braz regularly in the 90's but I haven't done it in the last few years. It's about the same size as in previous years. It looked to me like 400-500 riders in the parking lot. It still starts in the Alvin Community Center parking lot. The four of us (me, Coleman, Danny and David) selected the 50 mile route and all of us but David chose to register the morning of the ride. By this time they were out of the 50 mile route maps. Almost all of the critical intersections on this ride, however, were manned with uniformed officers to stop traffic. Even though there was a last minute change in the route because of a train derailment we had little trouble finding our way. There was, however, one turn in the last 10 miles of the ride that was totally unmarked. I was lucky enough to see a group of riders taking that turn, but others, including Danny and David missed it. They showed up at the finish line 10 or 15 minutes after we did.
The T-shirts were pretty disappointing. Plain white with a small Tour De Braz logo on the front and the back filled with the usual ad. They bore no art work, no year and no ride date.
The Danbury Fire Department provided a misting for riders hitting the rest stop in Danbury. This was probably the best rest stop of the ride.

The Danbury rest stop was well stocked, including David's beloved pickle juice.

Here's Danny taking a break. It's a great feeling to have your technical advisor accompany you on the ride!
The last 10 miles of the ride from Danbury were all tailwind. Coleman and I cruised easily at 20-21mph all the way to the finish. We had a little rain outside of Danbury, but it didn't amount to much. It was enough to cool us off a bit but, of course, it stopped as soon as we pulled over to put our cameras in the storage bag to keep them dry.
At the end of the ride we passed on the Sloppy Joes at the finish line, but did have a few Blue Bell popsickles.
This is the most fun I've had on a ride in quite a while.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Field Test

This morning marked the first field test of the Flevo since Danny worked on it. I am delighted with the results. Ken, Ben, Debbie and Pat and I met in Fulshear at the usual spot at 7am. Liz, my regular stoker, is buying a new new house this weekend and cannot ride. Debbie, brave soul that she is, volunteered to fill the stoker seat even though she had never ridden on the Flevo. She once told me on another ride, "I'm game for anything," and now I beleive it. We had 10-15mph winds out of the southeast, but the Flevo didn't mind. This bike seems impervious to headwinds and we quickly dropped the group everytime we had one.

Debbie adjusted beautifully to the bike and furnished plenty of power when I called for it. I still haven't installed mirrors so I relied on her completely to call cars approaching from the rear. It wasn't a problem.

The new flip-it handlebars worked perfectly, allowing me to stand as we stopped. The new kickstand was a pleasure, but I have to figure an easier way to carry it. I stuffed it our cargo bag. It fit, but it was a pain maneauvering it in and out each time we stopped. The relaced wheels were silent; a marked improvement over my last ride. All in all, the bike functioned flawlessly and was blazing fast. At one point we cruised at 21 with only moderate effort. I had the rare pleasure of seeing the front of Ben's bike instead of his tail light.

The ride itself was a fun. There was some cloud cover so there wasn't much heat. A few drops of rain fell, but not enough to get us or the road wet. We headed north toward Brookshire on Jordan Rd and then reversed couse to P Wall. From there a short leg down to Simonton and then back up north, then east and finally south back to P Wall. From there back to Fulshear. 37 miles in all.

I am warmed up for the Tour De Braz tomorrow morning. Coleman will be stoking with me on the Seavo.