2yrs of Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL Riding…

29 03 2013
Sharon eager to ride...

Sharon eager to ride…

It’s been a little over 2 years since we took home our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL. It’s 20″ wheeled travel tandem that packs into a suitcase and a half for travel or storage. This is our first tandem bicycle so our opinions are based on lots of Bike Friday riding, but near zero “normal” tandem rides.

I’m going to tackle 3 issues that were of concern when I was doing my pre-purchase research for this bike and discuss them now that we have some time under our tandem belts. If you want to read my previous tandem posts just click here and my tandem Flickr photos are here.

Maintenance

When I asked around in tandem forums about Bike Friday tandems I had several people tell me they required tons of maintenance to stay functional. That the shifting and braking would go out of whack and the frame needed to be checked and adjusted frequently. I’m lazy and I wasn’t super excited to spend a ton of time working on this bike. Since it’s a tandem it often sits all week and then gets pulled out last minute on the weekend when we decide to do something in town. Not having a reliable bike we can just jump on would curtail a lot of our tandem riding.

I’m happy to report that the tandem has been utterly reliable for us. I built it up following Bike Friday’s owner’s manual. It was my first Bike Friday build as my other Fridays came professionally assembled from the factory. So this bike was built up just like anyone who landed at a touring destination would build up their new tandem. The only maintenance I’ve done to it so far was adjusting the tension of the timing chain last week before the Victoria Populaire. That took 2mins and I took care of it outside a coffee shop while Sharon procured some java.

Handling

I was prepared for a significant learning curve when I got the tandem. I didn’t want to crash and kill Sharon’s tandem stoke. So I had a bunch of Sunday empty parking lot training sessions planned to ease into it. Our enthusiasm got the better of us and we ended up spending 3-4hrs on our first ride going into downtown to run errands. Perhaps it was my years of cargo bike experience, but the tandem was a no brainer to ride. We mixed it up with heavy car traffic that first ride with total confidence.

This spring we dusted off the tandem after a 3 month layoff and the first few pedal strokes were tentative, but after 30 seconds we felt right at home and started bombing around at full tilt. That gives us a lot of confidence when starting off a 100 person group ride in the middle of the pack where holding your line and reacting to other riders’ goofiness is a requirement.

Performance

Having owned a number of small wheeled recumbents and folding bikes I know that small wheels don’t equal slow, but that said they don’t automatically equal fast either. Combine that with the unknown performance just due to the fact it’s a tandem and I had some concerns we wouldn’t be satisfied with the bike’s performance for demanding rides.

As it turns out our speed over a significant distance [50-100kms] is a respectable 20kph which includes traffic lights and stop signs, etc… That’s with no training and we definitely have some extra power we could generate by syncing our pedal strokes better. During groups rides we end up right where we should be in terms of the riders and bikes we finish with. For a fully equipped touring bike powered by some middle age recreational cyclists our Bike Friday tandem isn’t letting us down.

For comparison my solo high performance rando bike average speed is ~25kph for longer rides.

I have no doubt that we could design and build a performance oriented tandem that would be faster, but for our current needs the ease of storage and touring capabilities of our Bike Friday are a better fit than a tandem designed to ride faster. We could also do more targeted training to get faster, but we prefer to blame any lack of speed on the bike, hills and/or wind! ;)

Seems like we have a winner...

Seems like we have a winner…

Sharon has been through a number of stoker bar options on the tandem. She couldn’t adapt to drop bars and she tried some flat bars with better results, but not total satisfaction. So we are now using some Thorn comfort bars with Ergon Grips that have built in bar ends. So far Sharon’s been happy with them and I think we’ll be sticking with this setup for the foreseeable future.





Victoria Populaire 50K…

28 03 2013
Team Raspberry Rocket mid-ride...

Team Raspberry Rocket mid-ride…

Sharon and I tackled the BC Randonneurs Victoria Populaire last Sunday on our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL. We decided on the 50K route because Sharon is scheduled for knee surgery this spring and we didn’t want to push things too hard and cause her any issues. With the ride to and from the event we racked up 70kms.

Click on map for more details...

Click on map for more details…

The event was well run as per the usual high standards of the BC Rando Club. It was a cold, but dry day with around 100 smiling riders. The course is easy to follow and has some nice scenery with enough hills to be interesting, but not punishing.

Ride pin...

Ride pin…

We racked up 50.85kms in 2:55 and finished with a Bike Friday Pocket Llama and a Cruz Bike recumbent. That seemed fitting. We had a great day out on the bike and we’ll be back next year to tackle the 100km course once Sharon has new bionic knee… ;)

Our beast of burden...

Our beast of burden…

Our Bike Friday tandem continues to impress with its ease of use and solid performance.  =)





Pannier Plus…

27 03 2013
Couldn't get it all in the Ortlieb...

Couldn’t get it all in the Ortlieb…

I frequently head out on an errand run with a single pannier. It’s actually a smaller Ortlieb front pannier that I keep loaded with tools/pump and locks. More often than I would like I collect enough stuff on my ride that I can’t fit it into my single pannier so I have to get creative.

A jacket and some bungees...

A jacket and some bungees…

On this particular day it was getting warm so I took off my extra jacket that was necessary when I headed out into the chilly morning air hours earlier. I wrapped it around my extra items and used a couple small bungees to strap it to the top of my rack.

It wasn’t the most secure way to carry cargo, but it held together for the bumpy ride home.

I really should start out with 2 panniers, but then I have to carry them around when I lock up my bike which is a drag. My ad hock cargo solution may not be elegant, but it’s low hassle!





Crank Brothers Joplin Maintenance…

26 03 2013
Crank Brothers Joplin 3...

Crank Brothers Joplin 3…

Sharon has been happily using the Crank Brothers Joplin 3 height adjustable seatpost for the last couple years that started life on my Nomad. On the weekend the seatpost wouldn’t work reliably and Sharon had to struggle a bit to get the post where she wanted it.

Joplin installed in her Nomad...

Joplin installed in her Nomad…

Having a key part of your bike work inconsistently is frustrating so I pulled the cable and housing from her Nomad and replaced them with fresh ones. As soon as I did the Joplin was working perfectly again. I was glad the job was so simple and didn’t require any futzing with internal components.

Joplin remote lever...

Joplin remote lever…

Although both Kurt and I had to send our Joplins in once for warranty service Crank Brothers gave Kurt a free Joplin 4 upgrade and serviced mine for free. In the years since they have been working like champs without complaint and without any servicing of the internals.

I don’t regret buying the Joplin at all.





Girls & Dirt…

25 03 2013
Sharon rocking and rollling...

Sharon rocking and rollling…

My wrist is back to 100% from my OTB mountain bike accident and I was ahead of schedule on a report I was working on so I decided to tag a long with Sharon and her Dirt Girl buddy Bev.

Bev and her puppy...

Bev and her puppy…

Having learnt from my previous Dirt Girl MTB experiences. I just hung at the back and did not set the pace. I didn’t have any input on which trails we would ride and I didn’t give out any tips or suggestions for improvement.

Sharon in the trees...

Sharon in the trees…

My only 2 jobs were:

  • don’t fall off my bike and get hurt!
  • take pictures of the ladies in action
Bev on a roll...

Bev on a roll…

My rebuilt Nomad has a 1″ shorter TT and the shorter wheelbase. 1″ doesn’t sound like a lot, but the bike rides noticeably differently. It’s not as stable as the bigger frame, but a lot more manuevrable. In our tight twisty forest trails that’s not a bad trade off.

Moving on up...

Moving on up…

So I used the ride to play around with the bike and get to know it all over again.

On a bridge...

On a bridge…

The ride was a success. I didn’t get hurt and the ladies appreciated having a personal photographer along on the ride.

Dropping the mossy rocks...

Dropping the mossy rocks…

It’s nice to see the trails drying out and to get out into the dirt with some friends.

Proving I was there... ;)

Proving I was there… ;)

I’m looking forward to another summer of Vancouver Island mountain biking.

Bev and Worsti...

Bev and Worsti…

If I play my cards right I may get to do more Dirt Girls ride as the token Dirt Hombre and photographer.

Dirty Girls...

Dirty Girls…

Life could be worse… ;)

Time to pack up and head home...

Time to pack up and head home…





The more purple Pugsley…

22 03 2013
After som DIY rim painting...

After some DIY rim painting…

Sharon’s Pugsley has some wheels that need love. The aluminum spoke nipples are corroded to the point of nearly not existing. The old Large Marge DH rims are heavy even with the DIY cut outs I drilled. Plus I damaged some spokes when I did the drilling! :(  So at some point in the next couple years we’ll replace the rims with Surly Marge Lites and rebuild the wheel with fresh spokes and nipples.

Before painting...

Before painting…

I figured since the wheels were not keepers I might as well experiment with some DIY rim painting.

Primer first...

Primer first…

I really liked the look of the white primer and if it was my bike I would have stopped here, but I don’t argue with a lady about style. ;)

Then Sharon selected a shade of purple...

Then Sharon selected a shade of purple…

I masked off the spokes with electrical tape. It worked fine at controlling most of the overspray. If you aren’t lazy you should probably cover the disc rotor with plastic or remove it.

Looking good...

Looking good…

The purple Sharon chose for the rims looks good with the frame in an understated Osmond Family sort of way.

The whole enchilada...

The whole enchilada…

The whole process cost me $10 for paint and $12 for beer. The result isn’t as pretty or durrable as powder coating, but it’s cheap and fast. If we get sick of purple we can change the colour anytime we want.





BC Rando Recruitment Poster…

21 03 2013
BC Randos need a few good cyclists... ;)

BC Randos need a few good cyclists… ;)