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.  =)





100K Un-Populaire!

17 04 2012

Sharon's first 100K ride ever!

Sharon completed her first ever 100km ride on Sunday. We set out from home on a rough approximation of the BC Randonneurs 100K Populaire route. Skipping the start at the University of Victoria we headed for the Mohka House coffee shop to get fuelled up. We then followed the 100K Vic Pop route along the south end of the peninsula to Mattick’s Farm where we stopped for a bathroom break. Cruising up to Sidney we stopped for a bite of lunch before looping around the top of the Saanich Peninsula and dropping down towards home. We got a bit “creative” with the route so we could reach 100kms without heading to the official ride end point at the university.

Ride data - click for bigger...

Although the GPS data above is a bit less than 100kms we did ride the full distance. We just started and stopped recording data on the bike path near our house so as not to give away the exact location of the Lazy Rando HQ!…=-) Overall the ride was fun and a big accomplishment for Sharon. Riding 100kms opens a lot of doors for seeing cool things in our area and makes a reasonable daily ride on a bike tour.

Sharon wondering when I'll put a Brooks saddle on the tandem for her?

We need to tweak the back end of the tandem for Sharon’s long distance comfort. She wants to move the Brooks saddle from her commuter bike to the tandem and then she’ll break in another Brooks on the commuter 10kms at a time. The straight bars and bar ends worked, but we’ll do some scheming to see what other bar options we can come up with that may work better for her. In general our Bike Friday tandem worked awesome for us and was a fun bike to pedal while enjoying the scenery of our island home.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT...

I threw a Garmin fitness GPS on Sharon’s bars so she could keep track of our ride stats. It’s a handy unit because I can install it on any bike in about 10 seconds and I don’t have to bother with a bike computer the other 95% of the time when I don’t care how far or fast I went.

Garmin Etrex Vista Cx...

I had the 100K Vic Pop route loaded into my Garmin mapping GPS up front on my bars to navigate us.

Rando Beer!

The weather was great. It started off cloudy and cool, but ened up sunny and warm as the day progressed. Nice day to be out on a bike…=-)





Birth of our Bike Friday Tandem…

8 04 2012

Cutting tubing...

These are some photos the kind folks at Bike Friday took for me when our Tandem Traveller XL was being built. I meant to post them last year and misplaced them for a bit. I won’t say too much about them as I don’t understand all the details of the construction process very well, but I thought it would be fun to share and to get a sneak peak at how these bikes are made.

Selecting some more tubing...

Prepping each tube...

Time to drill...

More prepping...

Welding jig...

A big bike needs a big frame fixture...

Welding the rear triangle...

Rear triangle...

Rear triangle...

Captain's seat mast opening in front TT...

More drilling...

Rear triangle fittings...

Rear V-brake posts...

Rear dropouts...

Stoker's BB...

Stoker's seat mast tube...

Rear triangle fittings...

Kickstand plate...

Cable guides...

Fork...

Frame parts after powdercoat...

Assembly begins...

Installing the headset...

A box of tandem parts at my house...

The finished product...





Bike Friday Tandem Brakes….

5 04 2012

Note a front disc and v-brake posts...

I was asked about the brakes on our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL over at my Flickr site and thought I would share the answer here for wider dissemination:

My Bike Friday tandem was ordered with disc brakes and v-brake mounts. I haven’t felt the need for extra braking at this point so we only have the discs mounted.

Like for any bikes there is no magic in v-brakes vs. discs. They both work. So you can pretty much pick whichever you prefer and use them.

Neither v-brakes or discs can take prolonged application before they’ll fail. V-brakes will heat up the rims and your tube will blow. Disc brakes will boil their hydraulic fluid, melt the plastic parts of the caliper and warp the rotor if overheated. Neither outcome will be pleasant with your GF on the back bombing down a mountain!

On a tandem the extra weigh without as much aero drag = extra speed on the downhills which can be a problem.

Are you saying we are so fat we need 4 brakes????

My suggestions are:

  1. if the roads are good sit up, take the lane and let the bike run without braking or minimal braking [I do this with my loaded touring bike frequently]
  2. if you need to brake a lot use pulse braking….slowing hard with front brake, releasing and then slowing hard with rear brake…then repeat. You’ll speed up to a top speed each pulse and then slow down to your bottom speed. Note the fast top speed allows a lot of air to flow over your brakes to cool them very effectively.
  3. add if a 3rd or 4th brake..in my case a v-brake front and rear possibly. Use pulse braking, but now you have 3 or 4 brakes to cycle through so you can brake more frequently without overheating.
  4. take a break or 3 on a steep descent to snap a picture or nimble something while your brakes cool.
  5. if you need more braking than you can get with pulse braking or you can’t be okay with the faster speeds of a pulse braking solution you can get a rear drag brake that will keep your speed lower since it’s on all the time. Keep in mind only a specially designed drum drag brake will do this safely. A disc or v-brake applied even very lightly, but constantly will quickly overheat and fail.

Our tandem team weighs ~300lbs + gear + bike…so probably close to 400lbs total on a ride with a lock and a light load of gear. My main strategy is #1 above….I just let the bike run as fast as she wants and brake only when I absolutely have to – which is infrequently. For a tour with full camping gear I’ll do some test runs locally and determine if I need an extra brake. If  so I’ll put a stoker controlled rear brake on.





Victoria Populaire – 70K!

26 03 2012

Team 20" at the end of the ride...

Sharon and I rode the 50K route at the BC Randonneurs Victoria Populaire Sunday. Add in ~20kms riding to/from the event and we rode farther than ever before on the tandem. Sharon also rode her longest ever distance on a bicycle. Obviously 70kms is not going to impress folks that ride 1200km events, but considering Sharon didn’t ride a bike when I met her this is a great achievement. Even better Sharon’s talking about riding the 100km route on our own this spring. Our distance riding progress may be slow, but it’s steady…=-)

50K Route Map - click for bigger version...

We met up with Aaron and Laura at the start. They were riding Dahon folding bikes so we were all rolling on 20″ wheels. We were joined by Brian and Mike on their big wheel bikes. The day was sunny and there were something like ~140 riders joining us on the course. The organizers did a great job staffing the controls and the route was well chosen for pleasant cycling.

Rider organizer Dave M giving the troops last minute instructions...

We let the majority of riders start in front of us so we could enjoy a relaxed pace around the course. I had my gps running as well as the course cue sheets. Between the two we managed a first ever zero bonus KM event by staying on course the whole time!

The intrepid members of our 50K posse at control #2...

The tandem proved comfortable for this distance and we had no issues cranking up even the steeper climbs on the course. I’m more and more impressed with our Raspberry Rocket on every new adventure. Thanks Bike Friday!

Sharon taking a breather along the route and enjoying the views...

Thanks to the BC Randonneurs for putting on a great ride for those riders not quite ready for a 200K brevet. Thanks also to Aaron, Laura, Sharon, Brian and Mike for riding with us…=-)

Mr.Lazy happy they have cookies at the control!

Victoria Populaire 2012 photos:





Shakedown Ride…

18 03 2012

A loose headset isn't fun on a tandem!

We took our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL out for a shakedown spin Saturday to make sure she was in good shape for next weekend’s BC Randonneur Club Victoria Populaire. Good thing we did as the headset was quite loose and you need a crazy big wrench to tighten it. Happily we stopped in at The Fairfield BIcycle Shop and Aaron helped us out with some tools – Thanks! We also decided to make some small tweaks to our saddles and Sharon’s bars.

Beyond that the shifting and braking is working well. I do need some lube on both the tandem’s chains and she should be ready to rumble!

Testing a route sheet holder...

Our Bike Friday tandem does not see regular rando use so there is no provision for a route sheet holder, bike computer or GPS. So I tested out a Cycloactive Bar Map OTG [Of The Gods] case to see how it stayed in place on our tandem’s unique bar/stem combo. It worked pretty well and can be adjusted back into position easily when it does slide down. For a one day ride I’ll use it as is, but for extended use I’d modify it to stay in place more securely. Note that on a normal bar/stem combo the OTG case would be fully secure without any changes. Our tandem is special in many many ways! I either have to wire in a bike computer or program my Garmin GPS to use with the cue sheet. I’m leaning towards the GPS as I’ll use it on my solo brevets as well so it makes sense to do a run through to ensure it is still working well. I’ve volunteered to shepherd any new riders around the 50K route so it’s fairly important we don’t get lost!

I’m excited to embark on our first rando event together. It’s a modest 50K ride, but that will be a good taste of what a brevet can be like and we can then move up to the 100K and 200K distances if all goes well. I can’t see Sharon being keen on riding more than a 200K event once a year, but that would still be great as a change of pace for our normal riding.

Scott checking the camera position...

We rolled down to the Mohka House for some coffee. I’m still in search of an amazing espresso shot in Victoria. I have found lots of decent coffee, but nothing top notch – yet! Scott joined us for a spin down to the beach where we shot some video for Porcelain Rocket and I got to play around with my new Canon T2i. Between my iPhone, Canon S95 and T2i I really do have a perfect set of photographic tools for just about any occasion. I ended up using all of them Saturday and it was nice to have so many options.

Sharon digs into some tasty Pho...

After our beach session we headed home with a stop at the Green Leaf Bistro for some yummy Vietnamese food. All in all it was a great day to roam around town on our bike and enjoy some warm sunshine.





Crazy Canadian Tandem Team…

19 11 2011

Green, but cold!...

It’s getting down below freezing at night in Victoria which combined with the humidity means it feels insanely cold and black ice/frozen bridges are a problem. Naturally when Sharon and I needed to get across town to have dinner at Aaron & Laura’s place last night we took our Bike Friday tandem. Wearing our parkas and lobster gloves we were plenty warm. We slowed down for all bridges as our slick tires don’t deal well with ice. Happily there were no issues.

Sharon getting excited about the gas fireplace...

Aaron & Laura made a lovely dinner which was consumed with a few glasses of wine. Their apartment has both light and heat – something our cottage is lacking in! I was a bit worried Sharon might get too attached to such luxuries…=-)

Laura wondering if there is any pie left...

After several hours of great company in a warm cozy apartment we had to face the daunting task of bundling back up and heading back out into the cold night. I had debated bringing along sleeping bags, but I wasn’t sure how A&L would react…=-) The ride home was chilly, but fun. No black ice to contend with although there was frost on the wooden bridge we have to cross. We were very happy to see our little cottage and throw ourselves into bed!

Thanks to Aaron & Laura for being such wonderful hosts…





Packing a Bike Friday Tandem…

11 08 2011

I found this Bike Friday tandem packing video on Youtube and wanted to bookmark it for easy review when I face the task someday.

 





Bike Friday Tandem Stoker Bar Update

16 07 2011

On a test ride...

We decided to test out the new flat bar + bar ends stoker bar setup on our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL by riding into town for some yummy Thai food.

Parking out front of Siam Thai...

The ride into town was fun and Sharon enjoyed the new bar setup so that was good news…=-)

Sharon and her happy hands...

Sharon’s only request was that I add some padding to the bar ends so I’ll hunt down some grips that fit and install them. I’m glad to have our only issue with the tandem resolved…=-)





BF Tandem Traveller XL Update…

5 07 2011

Parking the Bike Friday tandem takes some ingenuity...

It’s been a few months since the Raspberry Rocket showed up at our house so I thought I would take a moment to provide an update on our experiences with her. First off I should note that she is the only bicycle allowed to live in the house! Not just in the house, but in the dining room so it’s like we eat dinner with her every night…=-) She’s a bit too long to easily fit into our garage through the side door we use and we don’t want to leave her outside so she has the honours of being our only house bike.

Mechanically she has been perfect. I found the idea of assembling a box of tandem parts a bit daunting the first time, but following the Bike Friday instructions was easy and within 2 beers I had her rolling. Since that day I haven’t had to make any adjustments or work on her beyond tweaking the position of the bars. When I was doing my tandem research a few folks warned me that a folding tandem would be a headache to maintain and it would not be reliable for us. Having had great service from my other Bike Fridays I ignored those people [especially since they didn't own a folding tandem!!] and decided that I would just trust the fine folks in Eugene to build me another awesome bike. I’m glad I did.

I should note that ~30% of our riding is on dirt and gravel as well a long rough decked wooden bridge we tackle nearly every ride so this bike sees some bumps and abuse beyond buttery smooth pavement. We ride her like a bat out of hell or at least as close a replica to a bat out of hell as two middle age recreational cyclists can muster! Sharon loves passing people instead of being passed and I don’t mind the strange bewildered looks from other cyclists when they see a strangely shaped small wheeled pink and purple-ish beast go by..=-)

We ride the tandem for 80%+ of our rides together not counting dirt excusions to Hartland Mountain Bike Park. It just makes so much more sense for us to be on one machine where we can chat and stay together without any effort. We arrive at our destination in much better spirits and there has been no downside so far compared to riding two singles. Since we both do a fair bit of solo riding we each get to ride single bikes enough each week that it’s not like we have to choose to dedicate ourselves to the tandem 100% of the time in any case. The steel multi-part travel friendly frame is stiff enough that I can ride without thinking I’m on a tandem that fits into a suitcase and it has enough vertical compliance that combined with 40mm Greenspeed Scorcher tires we don’t slow down for lumps, bumps or other rough surfaces and we don’t get beat up. It’s a very impressive bike design given the challenges a tandem faces compared to two single bikes. Nice work Bike Friday!…=-)

The only problem we are having with the tandem is that Sharon is not adapting to drop bars well at all. We had to pull them from her Surly Cross Check commuter bike and we had to pull them from the tandem. I’ve swapped in some flat bars with bar ends I had lying around. If she likes them in general I’ll work on a flat bar setup we’ll keep for the long haul that gives her enough hand positions for all day comfort. It’s too bad that the drop bars can’t stay as they suit the bike and provide lots of hand positions, but we tried all sorts of variations in position, tape, padding and hood position with no success. Once I get a permanent solution I’ll post some photos of it.